Ousted Men's Wearhouse Founder Fires Back in Open Letter
The fight between Men’s Wearhouse, a retailing giant that made its fortune selling men’s suits, and its founder has been anything but buttoned up. After the executive board ousted George Zimmer last week, things have gotten nasty.
Zimmer, the entrepreneur who founded Men’s Wearhouse in 1973 and led the clothier to become a multibillion dollar company with 1,143 stores, released a public letter confronting the board of directors on his abrupt termination.
In the letter, Zimmer says the board is attempting to portray him as "an obstinate former CEO, determined to regain absolute control by pushing a going private transaction for my own personal benefit and ego. Nothing could be further from the truth.” Zimmer says the current board rejected his ideas and “took steps to marginalize and then silence" him.
The board of directors of the Houston-based chain released its reasoning for letting Zimmer go earlier this week in a sharply worded statement that accused the founder of having “difficulty accepting the fact that Men's Wearhouse is a public company.” It said he was advocating for decisions that would not be in the best interests of all of the shareholders. The board said Zimmer “refused to support the team unless they acquiesced to his demands” and that he “expected veto power over significant corporate decisions.”
While Zimmer’s letter was hostile toward the board, it also expressed gratitude toward his former employees. He thanked them for their work and urged them not to be distracted by the executive fight. “Stay focused on serving your customers and maintaining your jobs,” says Zimmer. This is Men’s Wearhouse’s 40th year in business.
Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at Entrepreneur.com, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.