Jeff Brotman, an attorney and founder of Costco, which became one of the world’s largest retailers by luring loyal stores with startlingly low prices on everyday products, descended from Jewish Romanian family, according to New York Times.
Brotman was born ]n 1942 to a Jewish family in Tacoma, Washington, the son of Pearl and Bernie Brotman. His grandparents were Jewish emigrants from Romania to Saskatchewan; his parents immigrated to the US and settled in Tacoma. The son of son of Jewish immigrants from Romania, Brotman not only transformed the way many families shop, he “transformed the way we treat people”, according to King 5 news in Seattle.
His father was an owner of Seattle Knitting Mills. Along with his uncles, he owned a chain of 18 retail stores in Washington and Oregon named Bernie’s. Mr. Brotman earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at the University of Washington in 1964 and graduated from its law school in 1967.
He practiced law for seven years at Lasher, Brotman & Sweet, but was drawn back to retail, opening a women’s jeans shop and men’s store, Jeffrey Michel, with his brother. He put into practice lessons he learned from his parents, including treating employees the way you would treat family members.
The idea to start Costco came after a trip to France, where Brotman saw a hypermarket that combined a discount grocery store with a department store. At the time, his father encouraged him to look at Price Club in California. With those ideas in mind, Brotman sought out Jim Sinegal, who already had a reputation in the wholesale club business, to join him. “We hit it off immediately,” says Sinegal. “He was so much more than a business partner.”
Today, Costco has 727 locations, operates in eight countries, and has 85 million members. Costco Wholesale of Issaquah, Wash., announced his death three years back but gave no cause. The company said Mr. Brotman had attended a dinner for its warehouse managers on Monday night in nearby Seattle.
According to New York Times, he had been a reluctant retailer at first. After working in his family’s chain of 18 men’s stores during college, Mr. Brotman sought to escape a retail career by applying for law school. But his business acumen proved too compelling.
Costco was the world’s largest retailer of a wide range of products, including organic foods and wine, in recent years. The company took in about $120 billion last year, its revenues second only to Walmart (although Costco was recently bumped to third place by Amazon).
He also served on the boards of Seafirst Bank, Starbucks, and was a trustee at the Seattle Art Museum. He and his wife Susan donated to numerous causes, especially at the University of Washington, where they funded hundreds of student scholarships.
Mr. Brotman married the former Susan Thrailkill, an executive for Nordstrom department stores, whom he met on a blind date. Besides his brother, Mr. Brotman is survived by his wife; their son, Justin; their daughter, Amanda Brotman-Schetritt, and two grandchildren.
Mr. Brotman also drew attention as a campaign fund-raiser for Democratic candidates and, with his wife, as a philanthropist whose beneficiaries included the University of Washington and the Seattle Art Museum.