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Originally published January 26, 2012 at 8:07 PM | Page modified January 27, 2012 at 6:32 AM

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Costco annual meeting pays tribute to Sinegal

The employees' love for Sinegal came through, as did his appreciation after the video show.

Seattle Times business reporter

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Jim Sinegal retired a few weeks ago as CEO of Costco Wholesale, but he remained central to the company's annual shareholders meeting Thursday.

After new CEO Craig Jelinek and Chairman Jeff Brotman led the meeting, Brotman introduced a half-hour video of Costco's history with a heavy accent on Sinegal.

It touched on key moments, including his talks with Brotman about launching the Issaquah-based chain, which now has almost 600 warehouses.

Sinegal's wife, Jan, recalled their daughter worrying about having to move from California to the Northwest, because "this fellow Jeff had shown up with this big idea."

The video covered Costco's first day in September 1983, when the cash registers did not work and it booked $35,000 in sales.

In time, Costco added pharmacies, gas stations, international stores and wedding gowns. It became known for its $1.50 hot dog and Coke.

Employees learned to do "death marches" with Sinegal through as many as 10 warehouses a day. "It's almost like an Iron Man," one recalled.

The employees' love for Sinegal came through, as did his appreciation.

"That was gut-wrenching," said Sinegal, who still is on Costco's board and will work for another year to help with the transition. "It's humbling to know you built your entire reputation on a $1.50 hot dog."

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @AllisonSeattle.

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