​George Zimmer Ousted: Zimmer Exits Men’s Company

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June 20, 2013
Also: Douglas Ewert, George Zimmer, Men's Wearhouse

Men’s Wearhouse Chairman George Zimmer, who appeared in many of its TV commercials with the slogan “You’re going to like the way you look. I guarantee it,” has been fired by the company.

The timing for Zimmer was even odd because the announcement happened after the company scheduled its annual shareholder meeting.

Men’s Wearhouse gave no reason for the abrupt firing of Zimmer, who built Men’s Wearhouse from one small Texas store using a cigar box as a cash register to one of the North America’s largest specialty men’s clothiers with 1,143 locations. The company generated revenue of $2.48 billion in its latest fiscal year ended Feb. 2.

The company said the purpose of postponing the annual meeting is to re-nominate the existing board of directors without Zimmer. It said the board expects to discuss with Zimmer the extent, if any, and terms of “his ongoing relationship” with the company.

The news shocked analysts and corporate governance experts, who tried to speculate what happened.

“This is very rare to fire a founder. Founders are generally entrenched in the company,” said Eleanor Bloxham, CEO of The Value Alliance, a board advisory firm.

Zimmer, who handed over his CEO title to Douglas Ewert in 2011, was the company’s personable, down-to-earth face.

Zimmer is also known for his activism in favor of legalizing marijuana. He donated thousands of dollars in support of a 2010 California ballot initiative that would have legalized the drug, according to LA Weekly.

As of late morning, the company’s website still prominently spotlighted Zimmer, calling him “The Man Behind The Brand” and linking to YouTube videos of “the man in action.”

The abrupt departure comes a week after Men’s Wearhouse reported that its fiscal first-quarter profit increased 23 percent, helped by stronger margins and an earlier prom season.

In 1971, fresh out of college, Zimmer made his first foray into the clothing industry, working in Hong Kong for six months as a salesman for his father’s coat manufacturing business, according to the company website.

In 1973, he and his college roommate opened the first Men’s Wearhouse store, which sold $10 slacks and $25 polyester sport coats, in Houston. His personal car was a van with the company logo on the side and clothing racks in the back.

The company launched its first TV commercial in the 1970s when commercials for clothing were rare. Zimmer starred in his first TV commercial in 1986, with the line “I guarantee it.”