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Jim Sinegal Net Worth

James D. Sinegal (born January 1, 1936) is an American billionaire businessman who is the co-founder and former CEO of the Costco Wholesale Corporation, an international retail chain. He served as Costco’s president and CEO from 1983 until 2011. As CEO of Costco, Sinegal was known for his hands-on humanitarian approach to business, which he learned from his mentor, Sol Price. He prioritized customer and employee satisfaction over shareholder interests and is also known for his philanthropic efforts.

What is Jim Sinegal’s Net Worth and Salary?

Jim Sinegal is an American business executive who has a net worth of $500 million. Jim Sinegal has earned his fortune as the co-founder and former CEO of Costco, the largest membership retail chain in the United States. Sinegal co-founded Costco with Seattle retailer Jeff Brotman in 1983. He retired as CEO in 2012 and retired from the Board of Directors in 2018. He was succeeded by Craig Jelinek. There are nearly 800 Costco locations worldwide and annual revenue exceeds $200 billion.

Costco Shares

At the time he retired from the Board of Directors in 2018, Jim owned 1.3 million shares of Costco. At that time Costco stock was trading at around $200 a share, which meant his stake was worth $260 million. Up to that point Jim had already sold $120 million worth of shares over the prior two decades. It’s not exactly clear what happened to those 1.3 million shares. According to the company’s most-recent filings, Jim does not own a single share anymore under his own name. It’s very possible he transferred ownership of those shares to a trust. It would be very bad for Jim if he sold his entire stake in 2018 when the stock was at $200. In April 2022 Costco stock briefly traded at $600. At that level 1.3 million shares were worth $780 million. At $500 a share, a recent rough average, that stake would be worth $650 million. Furthermore, 1.3 million shares would generate $1.117 million in dividends every quarter at the company’s recent dividend price of $0.90. That’s $4.68 million per year in dividends.

Salary

Jim Sinegal famously accepted a relatively modest annual salary compared to his Fortune 500 peers. Jim’s base salary was $350,000. Many executives of similarly-sized companies spent more per year on personal security. In 2010, Sinegal earned $3.5 million with his stock options factored in. The median salary and compensation for other Fortune 100 CEOs that year was $9.3 million.

Early life

He was born January 1, 1936, into a Catholic working-class family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He attended St. Lawrence O’Toole primary school, Central Catholic High School (Pittsburgh), and Helix High School in La Mesa, California, and he earned an AA at San Diego City College in 1955. He attended San Diego State University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1959.

Career

After Sinegal started as a grocery bagger at FedMart in 1955, he discovered that he loved the retail business, and was excited by the opportunities at this rapidly growing retailer. At FedMart, he worked his way up to executive vice president in charge of merchandising and operations. He was a vice president of merchandising for Builders Emporium from 1977 to 1978, an executive vice president for the Price Company from 1978 to 1979. From 1979 to 1983, he worked with Sinegal/Chamberlin and Associates, a company that acted as a broker and sales representative for food and non-food products.

Together with Seattle retailer Jeff Brotman, he co-founded Costco. From 1983 until his retirement in 2011, Sinegal served as Costco’s president and CEO.[1] As CEO, Sinegal was well known for traveling to each location every year, to inspect them personally. Sinegal’s innovations made Costco the first “warehouse club” to include fresh food, eye-care clinics, pharmacies, and gas stations in its mix of goods and services.

Sinegal was a protégé of Sol Price, widely considered to be the “father” of the “warehouse club” concept. Most if not all of Sinegal’s business philosophy can be attributed to Price; Sinegal has said that he “learned everything” from Price. Sinegal is known for a benevolent style of management rooted in the belief that employees who are treated well will in turn treat and serve customers well. Sinegal, through Costco, provided his employees — at every level of the company, including the stores — compensation and benefits that are much higher than retail industry norms. For example, over 90% of Costco employees qualify for employer-sponsored health insurance; the US retail industry average is just under sixty percent. As a result, Costco has one of the lowest employee turnover rates in retail. In 2006, Costco’s turnover rate was 17% overall and 6% after one year of employment.

In 1993, when growing competition threatened both Price Club and Costco Wholesale, Sinegal was invited to a partial merger. The two companies entered into a partial merger just after Price’s earnings dropped to 40%. The new company, named PriceCostco, Inc., focused heavily on international expansion, opening stores in Mexico, South Korea, and England. Despite best efforts to recover losses, sales continued to drop. Robert Price and Jim Sinegal had different opinions regarding company direction and recovery policies. The breakup was formally announced in 1994. Price’s breakaway company was named as Price Enterprises. Sinegal still continued to manage PriceCostco, Inc.

In 1997, the name of Sinegal’s company was changed to Costco Wholesale.

In an interview published in the Houston Chronicle on July 17, 2005, he told Steven Greenhouse that he did not care about Wall Street analysts who had criticized him for putting good treatment of employees and customers ahead of pleasing shareholders. Investors might want higher earnings, but Sinegal stated, “We want to build a company that will still be here 50 and 60 years from now.” A favorite quote attributed to Sinegal, in part about his philosophy on dealing with success, is “You have to take the shit with the sugar”. Investors who bought $10,000 of Costco stock in 1992 found it worth $43,564 just ten years later — a return of 354% (15.855%, annually). From 1985, when Costco went public, to 2020, the company’s stock value increased 19,000%.

In 2009, Sinegal was named a TopGun CEO by Brendan Wood International, an advisory agency.

Retirement

On January 1, 2012, Sinegal retired as CEO of Costco Wholesale, continued to serve as Company Advisor and Director, and was succeeded by his long-term Costco colleague W. Craig Jelinek in 2012. Sinegal retired from the Board of Directors in January 2018.

Personal life

In 2008, Sinegal was part of an eleventh-hour, local ownership group that committed to invest $450 million ($150 million from each of the three co-owners) for the renovation of Seattle’s KeyArena, and to purchase the NBA‘s Seattle SuperSonics franchise. The bid failed, however, as NBA commissioner David Stern had already made a private deal with an Oklahoma-based ownership group to move the team to Oklahoma City (where it was renamed the Oklahoma City Thunder).

Sinegal and his wife, Janet, have three children. Sinegal’s son David owns and operates the Sinegal Estate Winery in St. Helena, California.

Sinegal is an avowed Democrat, and spoke at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Sinegal has hosted President Barack Obama at his home on two occasions.

Sinegal received an honorary doctorate from Dartmouth College alongside Jake Tapper and others in June 2017.

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