Co-founder and former CEO of Costco (he retired in January 2012, when he turned 77) was the only corporate voice at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. The Seattle-based warehouse store Costco provides health benefits to full- and part-time employees, pays its workers well, and has a partially unionized workforce. Under Sinegal’s leadership, Costco never raised the price of its hot dog-soda combo meal ($1.50).
During its 29-year history, Costco has remained profitable in spite of what some analysts continue to criticize: Costco’s prioritizing workers over shareholders. “You have to take the shit with the sugar,” is one of Sinegal’s favorite sayings. But even affluent investors like one-time Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his wife Ann admit proudly and publicly (on The David Letterman Show) to being Costco shoppers. The $18 dress shirt is a fave of Mitt’s; he even claims to iron them himself. 89% of Costco members renew every year.
As a child, Sinegal was placed in an orphanage by his mother who later re-married a man named Siniscalli (changed to Sinegal) who later adopted James. Working his way through San Diego State University in the 1950s, James launched his lifelong career in retail as a bagger at discount chain Fed-Mart, where he met his wife and climbed the corporate ladder as far up as it would hold him. Sinegal is responsible for making Costco the first warehouse club to include fresh food, eye-care clinics, pharmacies and gas stations. It is 7th largest retailer in the world. No wonder Sinegal can take the shit: that’s a lot of sugar.