NEW YORK (AP) — Men’s Wearhouse escalated a public battle with its founder and former pitchman George Zimmer on Tuesday, trying to explain why it fired the man who still represents the clothier in many shoppers’ minds.
The company said in a statement that its board parted ways with Zimmer because he had difficulty “accepting the fact that Men’s Wearhouse is a public company with an independent board of directors and that he has not been the chief executive officer for two years.” One bone of contention was that he wanted to sell the company to an investment firm.
Zimmer, 64, who founded the company in 1973, has been one of advertising’s most recognizable pitchmen, immediately recognizable for his slogan: “You’re going to like the way you look. I guarantee it.”
“I am kind of sad,” said Gerard McLean, 51 a Web developer from Dayton. “George Zimmer is a trusted face and voice. Men need to hear that their fashion choices are OK.”
Since Men’s Wearhouse’s terse announcement Wednesday of Zimmer’s firing as executive chairman, it had remained tight-lipped about the reasons.
But on Tuesday, Men’s Wearhouse said Zimmer, who owns just 3 ½ percent of the company’s stock, pushed for “significant changes that would enable him to regain control.” The chain said Zimmer had refused to support its CEO Doug Ewert and other senior managers unless they gave in to his demands.
The retailer also said Zimmer expected veto power over certain corporate decisions, such as executive compensation, even though it has an independent board committee that sets such policies.
In addition, Men’s Wearhouse said Zimmer also began arguing for a sale of the business to an investment group, reversing course on his previous position.
Men’s Wearhouse said its board unanimously agrees that now is not the time to sell the company.
Zimmer declined to comment for this story.