Costco CEO Jim Sinegal to retire

Issaquah, Wash. -- Jim Sinegal, the much-admired CEO and co-founder of Costco Wholesale Corp., plans to step down effective Jan. 1. The chain said its board has elected the company's current president and COO, Craig Jelinek, to succeed Sinegal.

“Costco has a very strong culture and a deep bench of management talent," said Sinegal. "I have total confidence in Craig's ability to handle his new responsibilities and feel we are fortunate as a company to have an executive of his caliber to succeed me as chief executive of Costco."

Sinegal will remain with Costco through January 2013, serving in an advisory role and assisting Jelinek in the transition. He will also continue to serve on the board of directors and will stand for reelection at the January 2012 annual meeting.

Sinegal, considered one of the more colorful and admired persons in retailing, is known for his integrity, and for putting his employees and customers above Wall Street pressures. During the recession, Sinegal held tight, and Costco did not lay off any workers, with the exception of seasonal workers and extra people hired for new-store openings. It also refused to cut back on health benefits.

According to a report in The Seattle Times, Sinegal decided to retire partly because of his age, he will turn 76 on Jan. 1, and because Costco is in good shape.

"This is a positive move for Costco, and I feel very good about it," he told the newspaper. “"Everybody says that, and it sounds like a lot of bull, but I mean it."

Jelinek started as a Costco warehouse manager in 1984. He has served in every major role related to Costco's business operations and merchandising activities. Since becoming president and COO last year, Jelinek has accompanied Sinegal to the opening of every Costco warehouse in the world, The Seattle Times reported.