Craig Jelinek: Costco’s CEO Analysis

The first Costco (COST) warehouse opened in Seattle, Washington in 1983 in a converted airplane hangar. That humble beginning has since blossomed into an industry powerhouse that now enjoys more than $150 billion of annual revenue and a $99 billion market capitalization. The company operates more than 700 warehouses that employ 243,000 people worldwide.

Costco generates virtually all of its earnings from its membership model, choosing to offer its products and services at very low prices, and the system works; Costco is nearing 100 million total cardholders and has a 90% membership renewal rate. Shareholders have been handsomely rewarded for Costco’s success over the years as the stock has roughly doubled the substantial gains of the S&P 500 since Costco went public.

Craig Jelinek’s Costco Journey

The man leading this enormous empire of warehouses is W. Craig Jelinek, who you can see pictured below.

Craig Jelinek

Source: Money Inc

Jelinek became the CEO of Costco on January 1, 2012, but he has had a very long and successful career with the company before taking the chief executive role.

The 65-year old executive first joined Costco in 1984 as a warehouse manager and spent 20 years in various store and regional management positions. This foundation of operations and interacting with customers has helped Jelinek navigate a highly competitive retail environment, including threats from online competitors, with an eye for what customers want and need from Costco. Jelinek intimately understands Costco’s somewhat unusual business model and how to best make it work in a changing retail environment.

According to the company’s most recent proxy statement, Jelinek was Executive Vice President in charge of Merchandising beginning in 2004, again with a focus on store operations and how to get the company’s assortment to resonate with customers.

He was then promoted to President and Chief Operating Officer in February of 2010 and served in that role for just under two years before being promoted to the top spot in January of 2012.

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