Costco Wholesale co-founder and former CEO Jim Sinegal made his official departure from the retailer on Wednesday with a farewell speech at the company’s shareholder meeting, according to a report from The Seattle Times.
Sinegal, who turned 82 in January and didn't stand for re-election to the company’s board, said it was a "bittersweet moment," The Seattle Times reports. "It’s time," Sinegal said. "I’ve served for a long period of time, and I think that the company is in very good hands."
His co-founder Chairman Jeff Brotman died unexpectedly in July at the age of 74, and on Wednesday Sinegal described the "enormous hole in all of our hearts" he left behind, according to the report.
With the departure of Sinegal and the death of Brotman, Costco is officially being run by executives unconnected to the retailer’s founding in 1983.
Even as Sinegal and Brotman increasingly ceded control of the company’s operations in recent years, Costco has maintained a commitment to the superior pay, benefits and working conditions that the founders insisted on and that retailer has become known for. Costco is arguably the gold standard of retail hourly pay and benefits. The retailer consistently reports happy workers, low turnover and financial success, even in a bumpy economy. It's an employment approach that apparently hasn’t interfered with the warehouse retailer’s ongoing success, despite challenges in the retail sector that have intensified in recent years.
Costco last month reported December net sales rose to $14.94 billion in the five weeks ended Dec. 31, up 14.3% from $13.07 billion in the similar period last year, as same-store sales rose 8.8%, excluding fuel sales and currency effects (11.5% with those factors), increasing 9.1% in the U.S. alone (10.5% with fuel sales and currency effects).
Costco today operates 736 warehouses worldwide. Sinegal told the Times this summer Brotman made himself an "expert" at choosing where Costco should open new warehouses. Sinegal also told the newspaper how important Brotman's personality was to their partnership and the company.