Jeff Brotman, philanthropist and co-founder of the behemoth Costco, was remembered earlier this month, particularly in the Seattle area, Costco’s home base. Brotman and Jim Senegal started Costco together in 1983, and the company has been going strong ever since. It now encompasses 736 stores across the world. Brotman was the company chairman from 1994 until his recent death at age 74.

Because of Brotman’s philosophy of taking care of his workers by offering solid health insurance benefits even to part-time employees, as well as financial aid for college, many other companies now offer the same sorts of services.

Hamilton “Tony” James has been tapped to be Costco’s next chairman. James has been with Costco since 1988, serving as the board’s lead independent director before becoming chairman. He is also the president and chief operating officer of investment firm Blackstone. Like Brotman, James is extremely active in his community—in his case, as a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Mount Sinai Health System, and the Center for American Progress.

The Issaquah-based company has been going strong despite these unfortunate events and everything leading up to them. Costco reported revenue of $118.7 billion last year, and it’s the second-largest public company in Washington. Its current market capitalization is about $70.1 billion.

Brotman’s philosophies have made for a strong, sustainable company. Costco’s employee pay and benefits have a history of going above and beyond industry standards, leading to low turnover and increased productivity.

In the foreword to a book by Starbucks International’s Howard Behar, Brotman wrote, “When I co-founded Costco with Jim Sinegal, we shared the desire to create a culture in keeping with the Seattle inclusiveness and fairness I grew up with. We were guided by our ethics and created a family atmosphere in which our employees could thrive and succeed.”

“His whole thing was about community and serving people,” Behar said. “He ran his business that way, and that is how he served the community. Everything was to help people have a better life. When Wall Street said wages were too high, he said, ‘hell with you.’ That is the kind of person he was.”

Photo: George Sheldon /