Jim Sinegal started as a bag boy at FedMart and worked his way up to Executive Vice President in charge of merchandising and operations. He also held executive roles at Builders Emporium and the Price Company, where he was a protégé of Sol Price, a pioneer in the warehouse store concept. For four years Sinegal was a principal in Sinegal/Chamberlain and Associates, a brokerage company and sales representative for food and nonfood products. In 1983 he co-founded Costco with Jeff Brotman and served as president and CEO until his retirement in December, 2011. He is still consulting during the CEO transition and has remained on the Costco board of directors.
Sinegal was instrumental in growing Costco into a $91 billion global chain of over 600 warehouse stores in 40 states in the U.S. and Puerto Rico and nine countries around the world, with over 161,000 employees. This was accomplished by sticking to his philosophy of low prices and taking care of his employees. He is admired around the world for his leadership, focus on employees, and emphasis on giving back to the community. Fortune Magazine has named Costco one of the most admired companies in the world for many years. Costco has a very strong reputation for value and quality in whatever it does. It also has the highest rating for customer satisfaction for quality and value of large box stores.
Sinegal has been a long time supporter of Seattle University, including serving on the Board of Trustees from 1991 to 2011, and received an honorary degree from the university in 2003 and the St. Ignatius medal, the university’s highest honor, in 2011. In 2000, he and Brotman created the Costco Scholarship Fund to help qualified students attend Seattle University and the University of Washington, and to date over 1000 underrepresented minority students have benefited from the fund.
Sinegal recently accepted the position of Senior Executive in Residence at Seattle University’s Albers School of Business and Economics.