Founder of the chain Men’s Wearhouse George Zimmer is famous for his gravelly delivery of the brand’s tagline (“You’re going to like the way you look. I guarantee it.”), but his visual and vocal link to the business he founded was not enough to keep his own board from “terminating” him this morning.
For Men’s Warehouse, Zimmer was a constant and a large part of the brand’s image. And in interviews, he came across as a stand-up guy, with positions rooted in personal integrity and critical thinking.
And at Men’s Wearhouse, Zimmer’s presence was felt throughout the ranks — the chain has been voted one of America’s best places to work, and the man himself has been uncharacteristically egalitarian about employee treatment.
In a 2007 interview, Zimmer (himself a recovering alcoholic) told CNN Money:
“I don’t trust the U.S. justice system to get [background checks] right … I’d rather make my own decisions, and I believe in giving people a second chance.”
Still, Zimmer’s Men’s Wearhouse firing came as a shock despite a drawdown of his role at the company he founded, and Richard Jaffe, analyst with Stifel Nicolaus, was quoted by ABC as surmising:
“We believe that despite Zimmer’s planned transition to a smaller role at the company, he had difficulty letting go of the reins and the leadership of the business … We believe that this led to a conflict with the board and his subsequent termination.”
“We believe current management has been running the business effectively and will continue to do so. While we believe near term uncertainty exists as Men’s Wearhouse responds to a difficult macro-economic environment, we remain positive on the long term viability of the company, and at the current stock price, the risk/reward is attractive.”
With the shock firing of Men’s Wearhouse’s Zimmer and odd timing (ahead of a planned meeting), even analysts are scratching their heads, observing that it is “rare to fire a founder … founders are generally entrenched in the company.”