The abrupt firing of Men’s Wearhouse (MW) founder and chairman George Zimmer shocked shareholders on Wednesday and raised many questions about the company’s future. The 64-year-old Zimmer sold raincoats out of the trunk of his car before opening the first Men’s Wearhouse store in Houston in 1973. He was the public face of the men’s suit purveyor, appearing in company ads and delivering his legendary sign-out “You’re going to like the way you look, I guarantee it,” with his husky, baritone voice.
“It’s very odd” that Zimmer was dismissed on the same day of the company’s shareholders' meeting, says Brad Adgate, director of research at Horizon Media. “I’ve never seen this before.”
Adgate says board members may have wanted to shift the company toward a younger clientele: “Going after millennials is something all advertisers want to do… the company might be looking for a younger, fresher look,” he notes.
Men’s Wearhouse has not released details about Zimmer’s termination and rescheduled its annual shareholders' meeting to today at 11am PST. In a statement provided to CNBC, Zimmer said, “Over the last 40 years, I have built MW into a multi-billion dollar company with amazing employees and loyal customers who value the products and service they receive at MW. Over the past several months I have expressed my concerns to the Board about the direction the company is currently heading. 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 through termination as an executive officer."
Adgate says the company could avoid consumer backlash if the board shrewdly handles the speculation circling around Zimmer’s departure.
“It’s going to come down to what type of explanation they do,” he explains. “We’re still waiting to hear what happened internally.”
Shares of Men’s Wearhouse are up 111% over the past five years.
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