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Exclusive: George Zimmer on Being Fired by Men's Wearhouse, and What's Next


Zimmer's abrupt departure from the Men's Wearhouse was a shocker. This article explains what happened according to Zimmer.

--- Quote ---FORTUNE -- It was the firing heard around America. George Zimmer was out at The Men's Wearhouse (MW), after 40 years and countless television ads in which he guaranteed that customers would like the way they look.

The company's initial termination announcement was terse and without explanation, sparking social media outrage among some customers and fans. It then provided a more detailed explanation, essentially alleging that Zimmer was unable to accept that he was no longer CEO of the company he founded -- Zimmer handed the reins over to Doug Ewert in 2011, but remained executive chairman -- and alleged that he had been working to take the company private. Zimmer hired a PR firm and responded in a blistering public letter.

Since then, The Men's Wearhouse has continued to be in the news. First for buying Joseph Abboud, and then when smaller rival Jos. A. Bank (JOSB) offered in early October to acquire the company for $2.3 billion. That offer was rebuffed, with The Men's Wearhouse then offering to buy Jos. A. Bank for $1.54 billion, in a so-called Pac-Man defense.

But Zimmer went silent. He took that PR firm off retainer and has not made any public comments about his firing or future since June. Until now.

What follows is an edited transcript of a phone conversation, held with Zimmer last Thursday. In it, he discusses his termination, his thoughts on a Jos. A. Bank merger, and why he seems more popular now than ever before:
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What follows is the interview which is interesting but too long to add here.

I wondered what happened.

Very interesting, and quite plausible.  He doesn't air all manner of dirty laundry, but he doesn't cast himself as blameless nor the company as evil, so I tend to think that it's probably a relatively accurate version of what happened.  As for what happened?  In general, the board and he simply grew apart, particularly once his successor started taking the company in a direction he thought unwise.  He probably agitated against his successor more than he's admitted, but he didn't completely deny that he spoke out against the new direction on at least several occasions, so I don't think he's really trying to hide the truth, more that he's simply trying to give it a slightly more friendly coloring.


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