Men's Wearhouse founder, pitchman fired

NEW YORK — Men's Wearhouse doesn't like the way its founder looks anymore.

The men's clothier said Wednesday that it has fired the face of the company and its executive chairman, George Zimmer, 64, who appeared in many of its TV commercials with the slogan "You're going to like the way you look. I guarantee it."

The company announced the move in a terse statement that gave no reason for the abrupt firing of Zimmer, who built Men's Wearhouse Inc. from one small Texas store using a cigar box as a cash register to one of North America's largest men's clothing sellers with 1,143 locations.

The firing appears to end the career of one of TV's most recognizable pitchmen. Zimmer's slogan became almost a cultural touchstone, and his natty but down-to-earth charm made dressing sharply feel more accessible to men.

Zimmer said in a written statement that over the past several months he and the company's board disagreed about the company's direction.

"Over the last 40 years, I have built the Men's Wearhouse into a multi-billion dollar company with amazing employees and loyal customers who value the products and service they receive at the Men's Wearhouse," he said. But he noted that "instead of fostering the kind of dialogue in the boardroom that has, in part, contributed to our success, the board has inappropriately chosen to silence my concerns by terminating me as an executive officer."

The bad blood, however, didn't spook investors, who drove Men's Wearhouse's stock down just 43 cents to $37.04. The stock is still near its 52-week high of $38.59 and ended Wednesday up about 19 percent since the start of the year.

Beyond creating a successful company, Zimmer is known as something of a cowboy. He put his fortune to work behind California's failed Proposition 19 in 2010, which would have legalized marijuana in California, where he lived. And the company didn't conduct criminal background checks on new hires because Zimmer believed that everyone deserves a second chance.

Zimmer declined to comment beyond the statement through his personal publicist. Calls to company executives and board members were immediately referred to a company spokesman, who declined to comment beyond the release.

Richard Jaffe, a Stifel Nicolaus analyst, speculated that Zimmer, who handed over his title as CEO to Douglas Ewert in 2011, may have had difficulty in letting go of the company's reins.

"Clearly, something happened abruptly and fairly dramatically," he said. Jaffe also speculated that perhaps the company was looking for a new spokesman so it could target younger shoppers.

Men's Wearhouse founder, pitchman fired 06/19/13 [Last modified: Thursday, June 20, 2013 12:06am]

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