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Costco Co-Founder And Tacoma Native Jeff Brotman Has Died At Age 74

Ralph Radford
AP Photo
In this April 24, 2003, file photo, Jeff Brotman, Chairman of Costco Wholesale Corporation, speaks during a news conference at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Jeff Brotman, one of the co-founders of Issaquah-based Costco Wholesale Corporation and chairman of the board, died Tuesday at age 74. In addition to starting one of the most successful retail chains in the country, Brotman will be remembered for his philanthropy.

Brotman and Jim Sinegal opened the first Costco warehouse in the early 1980s. The company now has more than 700 stores worldwide.

Brotman grew up in Tacoma and credited his Jewish faith with teaching him to give back to his community.

Several years ago, he donated almost $1 million to Temple Beth El in Tacoma. Rabbi Bruce Kadden said the temple used the funds to build a preschool and a day care.

“We had to convince him to put his name on it because he’s not that type of person,” Kadden said. “He doesn’t like publicity.”

According to, Brotman studied political science and law at the University of Washington but went into the retail industry like his father. Brotman and his wife Susan have been major donors to the university and the Seattle Art Museum. He served as a UW regent and on the board of the museum.

Costco put out a statement announcing with “great sadness” that Brotman had died. A company spokesman declined to comment on the cause of death. 

Brotman was also an early investor in Starbucks. He also served on that company's board.

In an emailed statement to KNKX, Starbucks board chair and former CEO Howard Schultz said he would miss Brotman, calling him a "dear friend, mentor and a brother."

"Jeff's body of work helped tens of thousands of people. He has been a shining light in the community contributing so much to Seattle and the nation. We have lost a titan of our community," Schultz said.