Costco co-founder Jeff Brotman Dies

The board chairman and co-founder of Costco died early Tuesday morning. Jeff Brotman, 74, passed away in his sleep at his home in Medina, Washington, his brother Michel Brotman told The Seattle Times.

His cause of death is still unknown, but Michel said: ‘We assume his heart just stopped working.’

The warehouse club company announced Brotman’s death Tuesday in a brief statement.

“The thoughts of Costco’s board, management and employees are with Jeff’s wife and family,” the company said.

No other details were provided.

Brotman, an attorney and businessman, opened Costco’s first warehouse with Jim Sinegal in 1983 in Seattle.

Sinegal told the Times that the death of his business partner and friend came as ‘a complete shock for everyone’.

‘Over 35 years, he became not just a business partner but a confidante, a great friend. I’m not exaggerating for a second when I say I loved the guy,’ Sinegal said.

Monday night Brotman attended a dinner for about 2,000 Costco warehouse managers who were gathered from around the world at the Washington State Convention Center, according to Sinegal.

Brotman had served as the chairman of the board since 1994 and Costco has not said who would succeed him in the position.

Brotman grew up in Tacoma, Washington, and attended the University of Washington. He graduated in 1964 with a degree in political science and in 1967 with a law degree.

In 1976, he married Susan Thrailkill, a former Nordstrom executive.

He and his wife were well-known for their philanthropy.

They supported many institutions including University of Washington Medicine, Seattle Children’s Hospital through Friends of Costco Guild, the Seattle Art Museum and the Pacific Northwest Ballet.

The couple was also politically active as donors within the Democratic Party. They even hosted fundraisers for Hillary Clinton last year and Barack Obama in 2012 in their home.

Brotman is survived by his wife Susan, their son Justin Brotman, their daughter Amanda Brotman-Schetritt and two grandchildren.

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Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.