Pay and Power Among Reasons Men's Wearhouse Fired George Zimmer, the Company Hints


The company continued to say, "Mr. Zimmer presented the Board with the choice of either a) continuing to support our CEO and the management team on the successful path they had been taking, or b) effectively re-instating Mr. Zimmer as the sole decision maker. The Board strongly believed that the best course of action was to re-affirm its support for Doug Ewert, the senior management team, our shareholders and our employees."

Last Wednesday, the company released a terse statement announcing it was "terminating" Zimmer, after which he offered his own statement saying the board had "inappropriately chosen to silence my concerns."

On Monday, Zimmer sent a letter to the board explaining that he was resigning as a director of the company and that the board's decision "cannot dampen my enthusiasm for all that has been accomplished since 1973," the year he established the firm.

"As the founder and still a major shareholder, I still care deeply about the company and its future," Zimmer wrote on Monday.

The company, based in Fremont, Calif., is one of the country's largest specialty men's retailers with 1,143 stores across the country. The company operates Moores and K&G Stores in addition to its namesake stores.

The company explained, "Our actions were not taken to hurt George Zimmer. Rather we were focused on what we believed to be in the best interests of Men's Wearhouse, as well as shareholders and employees. While Mr. Zimmer owns 3 ½ percent of the stock, it is our obligation to represent the interests of all shareholders."

Whether or not Zimmer will still attempt to take the company private is yet to be seen. On Monday night, the San Jose Mercury News reported that unnamed sources indicate Zimmer is considering a "comeback", which may include trying to buy out the company.

But if those reports are true, Zimmer is likely to face strong opposition from not only the company's board but investors.

"We have confidence in management team," Jaffe said, explaining that the company has had improved financial results since Zimmer placed CEO Doug Ewert as leader of the company two years ago. "I can't fault George for putting this team in place. They are a good bunch of guys. He has been grooming Doug for 10 years."

Jaffe adds that the operating model for Men's Wearhouse is strong at a time when demand for tailored men's clothing is growing and the company owns about 40 percent of the men's tuxedo rental market.

Jaffe said taking the company private would be a bad decision for the company, piling on debt on Men's Wearhouse and changing how the company functions.

Television viewers who had grown accustomed to Zimmer's commercials reacted with shock after news of his termination.

"It's sad it had to come to this," Jaffe said. "George has been the voice, face and spirit of the company."

Still, customers and fans of his commercials could potentially still see his face, since the company owns the footage. But Jaffe said the company has constantly questioned the effectiveness of Zimmer in the TV ads, and his role has evolved in the ads, from standing in front of the camera, to doing voiceovers and ending with the famous tagline: "You're going to like the way you look. I guarantee it."

"George is 64-years old with a grey beard," Jaffe said. "Is he the right person to sell to a 24-year old kid? I don't know and I don't think the board knows the answer to that, but it's their choice not George's choice."

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