From forklift driver to CEO: Who is incoming Costco boss Ron Vachris?

 

By Sarah Bregel

Craig Jelinek, who has been Costco’s CEO since 2012, just announced he will step down after the year’s end. The 71-year-old will continue to serve the corporation as an advisor until next April, and will remain a member of the board. Jelinek is handing over the role to highly capable hands, however. Ron Vachris, who has worked for the company for more than 40 years, will take his place in the new year.

Here are four things to know about the incoming CEO:

1. His promotion has been in the works for a while

In February 2022, the company announced it was naming 58-year-old Vachris as its new president and COO. A press release noted that Vachris and Jelinek “have worked hand in hand over the last 21 months in Ron’s role as president and for many years before that.” The announcement also revealed that the move was part of a “long-standing succession plan.”

2. He’s had an untraditional path to the top

Vachris wasn’t always in a management role, however. He worked his way up the ranks, starting at the bottom: driving a forklift. In 1982, Vachris started at Price Club, a warehouse chain that merged with Costco in 1993, working part-time as a receiving clerk.

3. He breaks the mold of the typical MBA CEO

While Vachris was working as a Price Club clerk, he was also attending Glendale Community College in Arizona. In school, he studied business, and it wasn’t long before that thirst for knowledge paid off. In 1989, he was promoted to an assistant general manager at the club’s first Colorado store. Two years later, he was named general manager of the Southwest Denver location.

4. He was a key player after Costco’s big merger

When Price Club and Costco joined forces, Vachris was essential to the expansion that followed, helping open new stores in his home state. It took time, but Vachris was making his way up the chain, eventually becoming senior vice president and general manager of the retailer’s Northwest Region from 2010 to 2015. Then, he stepped into the role of senior vice president of real estate development from 2015 to 2016. That same year, he became chief executive operating officer of merchandising before joining the board in 2022, and stepping in as the company’s number two.

In the new year, he will take the top spot, and it’s no wonder that Jelinek isn’t too worried about Costco’s new boss—he’s essentially worked for the company his entire working career.

 

“Costco has a very strong culture and a deep bench of management talent,” Jelinek said in a statement. “I have total confidence in Ron and feel that we are fortunate as a Company to have an executive of his caliber to succeed me.”

Fast Company

(9)