The retailer announced his termination as executive chairman
today in a three-paragraph statement that didn't include a reason
for the dismissal.
"Over the past several months I have expressed my concerns to
the board about the direction the company is currently heading,"
Mr. Zimmer said in a statement. "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 firing leaves Houston-based Men's Wearhouse without the man
who founded the company in 1973 and stars in its commercials. According
to company filings, the retailer had a license agreement with Mr.
Zimmer that allowed it to use his likeness in connection with
advertising and marketing, so long as he was an employee, for an
annual fee of $10,000. Now that Mr. Zimmer is no longer an
employee, Men's Wearhouse would have to pay up, to the tune of
$250,000 per year, if it wants to continue using him in
The retailer spent $56 million on measured media in 2012, up 24%
from 2011, according to Kantar Media.
"He's been a lynchpin for the brand for so many years," said
Robin Lewis, a New York-based retail consultant. "That alone, from
the marketing standpoint, might have negative effects."
Mr. Zimmer, 64, opened the first Men's Wearhouse in Houston with
his college roommates, selling $10 pants and $25 polyester sport
coats, according to the company's website. He began appearing in
the company's commercials in 1986, extolling the company's low
prices. The ubiquitous line delivered in Mr. Zimmer's baritone
voice was created by ad agency Red Ball Tiger in
1997, Mr. Zimmer told Fortune magazine in a 2010
Men's Wearhouse now operates 1,143 stores selling suits, coats,
clothing and accessories through its namesake, Moores, Tux and
In 2011, the company named Douglas Ewert, who had joined the
company from Macy's 16 years earlier, to succeed Mr. Zimmer as CEO.
In December, Joseph Abboud was tapped as the company's chief
Mr. Zimmer still owns about 3.5% of the company's shares, making
him the seventh-largest shareholder, according to data compiled by
Because of the firing, Men's Wearhouse postponed its annual
shareholder meeting, which had been scheduled for today, so it
could renominate its slate of directors without Mr. Zimmer. The new
date, time and location of the annual meeting will be announced
"shortly," the company said, without providing a date. The company
also said the board expects to discuss with Mr. Zimmer the extent
and terms of his future relationship with Men's Wearhouse.
--With Bloomberg News