Jeff Brotman, Costco chairman and co-founder, died unexpectedly on August 1, leaving behind an incredible legacy of leadership and generosity.
Brotman was a “double Dawg,” with an undergraduate degree in political science (1964) and a J.D. in law (1967) from the University of Washington, but it’s the family businesses—first working for his father and uncles, and later with his brother—that put Brotman on a path to his legendary partnership with Jim Sinegal and changed the way the world shops.
With annual revenues of $119 billion last year and a reputation for treating its 160,000+ employees so well that retention rates lap the competition, Brotman demonstrated that high value and low frills is a combination consumers will sign up for in record numbers.
“Not only was Jeff Brotman one of the greatest business leaders of the past century, he was a caring, invested civic leader as well,” said James Jiambalvo, Orin and Janet Smith Endowed Dean of the UW Foster School of Business.
Brotman and his wife, Susan, gave immeasurable amounts of time and resources to many organizations in the Pacific Northwest including the UW, where Mr. Brotman served as a Regent and along with his wife, was a co-chair of the UW’s Be Boundless capital campaign.
Brotman also spearheaded scholarship efforts that have made great business education available to dozens of financially challenged and traditionally underrepresented young people. It’s worth noting that the scholarships at the Foster School carry neither Jeff’s nor Costco’s name—his passion was purely for the cause rather than the recognition.
“Successful people often are praised for their strategic minds and big hearts, but Mr. Brotman transcended those qualities. He was truly perpetual motion as a purpose-driven leader – professionally and socially,” said Steven Hatting, Associate Dean for Advancement at Foster. “He made the most of every minute for all around him. Our hope is Foster and the University of Washington can produce more trailblazers with the vision, values and humanity of Jeff Brotman. He made our world a better place.”
In 2016, Brotman received the Foster School’s Distinguished Leadership Award, the school’s highest non-degree honor (see video below).