Costco co-founder, chairman dies
A retail legend has passed.
The co-founder and chairman of Costco Wholesale Club, Jeff Brotman, 74, died Tuesday morning. He died in his sleep at his home and the cause of his death wasn’t immediately known.
Brotman's death came as a "complete shock," according to the Seattle Times. On the Monday night prior, he had attended a dinner for about 2,000 Costco warehouse managers from around the world who are gathered this week at the Washington State Convention Center, the report said.
"The thoughts of Costco’s board, management and employees are with Jeff’s wife and family,” Costco said in a statement. The company did not say who would succeed Brotman as chairman.
Brotman had retail in his blood from an early age. His father, Bernard Brotman, founded several specialty stores in the Tacoma Washington area. Brotman co-founded Costco Wholesale with Jim Sinegal, who served as the company's CEO until he stepped down in 2011. The two opened the first Costco warehouse club location in 1983, in Seattle, and built it into a global retail powerhouse. The company currently operates 736 warehouses, including 511 in the United States and Puerto Rico, 97 in Canada, 37 in Mexico, 28 in the United Kingdom, 25 in Japan, 13 in Korea, 13 in Taiwan, eight in Australia, two in Spain, one in Iceland and one in France.
Brotman previously served as chairman of the company's board from Costco's founding until 1993, when he became vice chairman of the company. Since December 1994, he served as chairman.
Brotman was famous for his philanthropy, which spanned the educational, medical and cultural arenas. He and his wife were major donors to the Democratic Party. Brotman also supported other entrepreneurs, and was an early investor in Starbucks.
“I will miss Jeff immensely. He was a dear friend, mentor and a brother,” Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ executive chairman, said in a statement. “He was one of the earliest believers and investors in Starbucks and in me.”
Schultz also commented on Brotman's charitable endeavors, describing him as "a shining light in the community contributing so much to Seattle and the nation. We have lost a titan of our community.”
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Women’s apparel powerhouse creates new executive position
The owner of Ann Taylor, Loft, DressBarn, Lane Bryant and other brands is consolidating its executive leadership structure as part of its efforts to reinvigorate top-line growth.
Gary Muto has been appointed to the newly created position of president and CEO of ascena Brands, with responsibility for reinvigorating and driving top-line growth across Ascena’s full brand portfolio. He will continue to lead the company’s premium fashion segment, and will now also provide strategic direction and leadership for the company’s plus, value and kids fashion segments.
In addition, Brian Lynch has been elevated to president and COO of ascena retail group. Lynch will continue to have responsibility for the retailer's operating platform and infrastructure, and will remain focused on the development and delivery of top-tier enterprise capabilities in supply chain, technology, product sourcing, real estate, and non-merchandise procurement.
The appointments come as Ascena has seen its brands battered by increased competition from online players and fast-fashion retailers. In June, it announced plans to close 250 of its stores during the next two years, and seek rent concessions for some 400 additional ones. The news came on the heels of a dismal third quarter during which total same-store sales fell 8% amid a decline in store traffic across all brands.
Both Muto and Lynch will continue to report to David Jaffe, chairman and CEO of ascena retail group. In a statement, Jeffe said the new executive management structure would enable faster decision making, accelerate implementation of company-wide initiatives, and foster greater accountability.
"We have recently completed an extensive evaluation of strategic opportunities that complement our core business, and leverage our brand and platform assets," said Jaffe. "The new management structure we are announcing today will allow me to increasingly focus my efforts on strategic growth initiatives. We have begun a search for a new senior executive who will be responsible for developing strategic opportunities, and all related business development activity will report directly to me."
Ascena retail group sells apparel, shoes and accessories for women through its premium fashion segment (Ann Taylor, Loft and Lou & Grey), value fashion segment (Dressbarn and Maurices), plus fashion segment (Lane Bryant and Catherines), and kids fashion segment (Justice). It operates e-commerce websites and approximately 4,800 stores throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.
Westlake Ace Hardware promotes two execs
Westlake Ace Hardware has announced two executive promotions.
The company promoted current COO Joe Jeffries to president and COO, continuing to support CEO Tom Knox. In addition, Andrew Schmitt will be promoted to the position of VP of operations for Westlake Ace Hardware. Schmitt currently holds the position of director of retail operations – Western Division, for Ace Hardware Corporation.
“I am pleased to announce the promotion of Joe Jeffries to the role of president and COO of Westlake Ace Hardware,” said Tom Knox, CEO, Westlake Ace Hardware. “Joe is a proven leader with an outstanding vision for operations, merchandising and new store development, as well as growth strategy design and implementation.” Knox went on to say, “I’m also excited to welcome Andy Schmitt to the Westlake Ace Hardware team. I worked with Andy extensively during our time at the Ace Hardware corporate headquarters – he will be an exceptional addition to our leadership team.”
Westlake Ace Hardware is the popular name of Ace Retail Holdings, the subsidiary of Oak Brook, Illinois-based Ace Hardware Corp.
Jeffries joined Westlake Ace Hardware in 2014 as the COO. Prior to joining Westlake Ace Hardware, Jeffries was CEO and COO at A.C. Moore Arts & Crafts, Inc., a regional chain of arts and crafts retail stores. Before that, Jeffries spent eight years with Office Depot where he held several executive positions that oversaw retail store operations, space planning and visual presentation. He also spent 13 years with Home Quarters Warehouse, where he started his career.
Schmitt joined Ace Hardware in 2010 as Senior Finance Manager. In 2011, he transitioned to the Retail Operations department where he held various positions including Director of Retail Operations – Western Division, Regional Manager (Texas), and Corporate Manager of Retail Operations. Prior to joining Ace Hardware, Schmitt was Director of Finance for Factory Card and Party Outlet, a division of Party City. He also held various financial and procurement roles with Allstate Insurance Company. Schmitt holds a bachelor of science degree in Finance from Illinois State University and an MBA from Northern Illinois University.
In June 2017, Westlake Ace Hardware announced the acquisition of two new neighborhood hardware stores, bringing the chain’s total store count to 100 locations.