ISSAQUAH, Wash.–James Sinegal, who co-founded Costco with Jeff Brotman and who has been CEO of the warehouse-club retailer since 1983, will step down from his post on Jan. 1, 2012.
Together, Sinegal and Brotman, who is the company’s chairman, built Costco into a retailer that now numbers 592 warehouse clubs and which posted close to $87 billion in global net sales as of Aug. 28, the end of its last fiscal year.
In announcing Sinegal’s decision to step down, Costco said its board of directors has elected Craig Jelinek, currently president and chief operating officer, as president and chief executive officer effective Jan. 1. Sinegal will remain with Costco in an advisory capacity through January 2013 to assist Jelinek in the transition. He will also continue to serve on Costco’s board, and will stand for reelection at the company’s January 2012 annual meeting.
Sinegal was a protege of Sol Price, who is credited with the creation of the warehouse-club concept with the founding of Price Club in the late 1970s (Costco merged with Price Club in 1993). In a company history, he said, “Costco is able to offer lower prices and better values by eliminating virtually all the frills and costs historically associated with conventional wholesalers and retailers, including salespeople, fancy buildings, delivery, billing and accounts receivable. We run a tight operation with extremely low overhead which enables us to pass on dramatic savings to our members.”
Jelinek, a 28-year veteran of Costco who started his career as a warehouse manager, became president and chief operating officer on Feb. 1, 2010.