Here's George Zimmer's letter blasting Men's Wearhouse

The founder of the company has strong words for the board that ousted him.

By Kim Peterson Jun 26, 2013 6:09PM
File photo of George Zimmer, founder and executive chairman of The Men's Wearhouse Inc., on May 1, 2012 (© Patrick Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)George Zimmer is finally speaking out -- and he has a lot to say.

The founder of Men's Wearhouse (MW) published an open letter to the company Wednesday defending himself after his public ouster last week. The full text of the letter is below.

The drama between Zimmer and the company has been escalating after Men's Wearhouse announced his firing in a short note. In his letter, Zimmer provides some background details.

The board unanimously nominated him for re-election just one month before firing him, Zimmer said. Over the last two years, he added, the board has been "eroding the principles and values" that made the company so successful.

The company is not responding to Zimmer's letter yet.

Here's the full letter:

"Since 1973 when I opened the first The Men’s Wearhouse store in Houston, with the help of tens of thousands of current and former employees, we have built a multi-billion dollar company based on two guiding principles. The first is to serve customers by delivering value and an enjoyable shopping experience and the second is to embody the values of servant leadership by trusting and empowering our employees to create that experience. I believed that if we did these things right, customers would be satisfied, employees would feel appreciated and motivated and shareholder value would be created. And, in fact, all this has happened.

Over the years, as CEO, I consistently encouraged the company to take a longer term approach of investing most of our profits back in the company, delivering value to our customers and building a loyal and dedicated workforce totally committed to service, rather than pursuing shorter term strategies based on financial engineering. Inside the Boardroom, we often had spirited discussions about how best to achieve these objectives. Regardless of whether the Board eventually sided with my point of view or not, I believe this dialogue and discussion led to better decisions that contributed to the success of The Men’s Wearhouse.

Unfortunately, this dynamic seems to have changed.

Just one month after the directors unanimously nominated me for reelection to the Board, last week they abruptly fired me from my management role and postponed the Annual Stockholder Meeting so they could nominate a new slate of directors that excluded me. To justify their actions, they now have tried to portray me 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.

The reality is that over the past two years, and particularly over recent months, I believe that the Board and management have been eroding the principles and values that have made The Men’s Wearhouse so successful for all stakeholders.

Earlier this year, concerned with the Board’s response to the short term pressures of Wall Street, I encouraged the Board to at least study a broader range of strategic alternatives beyond simply selling the K&G division, including the possibility of a going private transaction. Rather than thoughtfully evaluating the idea or even checking the market to see what value might be created through such strategic alternatives, the Board quickly and without the assistance of financial advisors simply rejected the idea, refused to even discuss the topic or permit me to collect and present to the Board any information about its possibilities and feasibility, and instead took steps to marginalize and then silence me.

Such behavior by the Board does not strike me as consistent with sound principles of good corporate governance or the core values of The Men’s Wearhouse, but instead suggests that the directors were more concerned with protecting their entrenched views and positions than considering the full range of possibilities that might benefit our shareholders and indeed all our stakeholders.

To be clear, at this point I have not concluded that taking The Men’s Wearhouse private is a better means of preserving the unique culture and values that have made the company so successful over the years. What I do know is that as a founder and large shareholder, I am greatly concerned about the future of the company if this culture and these values are lost, and believe that the Board should be open to at least consider the full range of possibilities that could optimize the future value of the company for all stakeholders.

To the countless employees who have attempted to contact me over the past week, I appreciate your kind gestures and support. I am so very proud of the company we built together and nothing will change that. I encourage you to stay focused on serving your customers and maintaining your jobs. Please do not concern yourselves with my well-being at the risk of your own."

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197Comments
Jun 26, 2013 7:24PM
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Mr. Zimmer tried to do the right thing by his customers and employees; and the board just wanted to squeeze more profits from an already profitable company. I will never shop there again unless Mr. Zimmer is reinstated.


Jun 26, 2013 7:30PM
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For some reason firing the longtime public face of your company (and also founder) seems like a really bad idea.  To the Men's Warehouse board ... good luck!  You are going to need it ... firing George Zimmer was the stupidest thing you could do!
Jun 26, 2013 8:17PM
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Mr. Zimmer and I share a similar experience.  I'm afraid that leading business schools have been teaching their students to change the way businesses operate. I  have worked for years to provide value to the customer and corporate success.  Rather the attitude among large corporate boards today is to take the profits today and downsize tomorrow until the business is no longer profitable and then attempt to sell it to another conglomerate.  In the meanwhile, the employees lose, customers lose their trust in the company, shareholders lose and only the corporate "flippers" make a windfall on the deal.  Shame on the professors and corporate flippers who seem to have lost all sense of doing what is right.
Jun 27, 2013 11:10AM
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He may not remember, but back in the 90's I was at a conference in Tampa.  My suit was a mess after the flight, so I took it in to the Men's Warehouse and they pressed it for free. Mr. Zimmer was there that day and I expressed my thanks to him and his staff.  Mr. Zimmer took the time to speak with me while my suit was being pressed. He asked me how his company could do better and what changes I felt would make his stores better.  I had nothing to tell him, as I have always received great service from his stores. The fact that this multi-millionaire took the time to speak to me, a guy who has bought 5 or 6 suits from him, spoke greatly to me. Mr. Zimmer cares about the customer, something greatly lacking in today's business world.

 

I will not step foot in, or wear a suit from the Men's Warehouse until Mr. Zimmer is brought back to the company that HE started and HE founded.  The other morons can go pack sand for all I care!

Jun 27, 2013 10:28AM
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If you treat every customer with dignity and respect the company emulates dignity and respect.  Firing Mr. Zimmer, the founder, has taught me a valuable lesson which is, "Hell will freeze over before I purchase another suit, slacks, shirt, or tie at MW unless Mr. Zimmer is the CEO.  He IS MW"  I also have a business and have 4 sons and the most dangerous possibility in retail is bad word of mouth.  Now you have lost my trust and I will shop elsewhere.
Jun 26, 2013 7:37PM
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I grew up in Houston and remember his commercials.  He created that business and I would have assumed it was his to do with what he wanted.  Evidently he was doing things in a profitable manner or it wouldn't have grown to all the stores it now has across the country over these past 40 years. I guess his mistake was in the people he may have hired or put in as his board of directors.  I don't know what all has transpired over the years nor do I claim to.  I just know that I was saddened to hear that his board would have done something like that, but it all leads to what is most important to corporate America...the almightydollar.  Some of these people who make these decisions are going to wake up someday and realize that there was more important things in life. I feel George is entitled to say whatever he wants about how he was treated. 
Jun 27, 2013 10:46AM
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Mr. Zimmer..., I tip my hat to you, Sir.  You are truly gentleman and a scholar, with a touch of class and a gentle heart to your (former) employees, customers and stakeholders.  I wish you all the success in the world.  Personally, as an aside, I'd like to see you start your chain of stores (in fact, buy K&G outright) and put The Men's Warehouse into bankruptcy..., as that is where it will be heading without your direction and the one-dimensional thinking of the Board now.
Jun 27, 2013 10:43AM
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I always believed the business model that Mr. Zimmerman set forth was a huge success.

Without him, I will do business somewhere else. Good luck to you Mr. Zimmerman.

Jun 26, 2013 9:39PM
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Corporate America will always lose out, when they put profits before customers and the employees that serve those customers.  I would never invest in an education, training and the climbing of the corporate ladder, just so that my ideas and values could be pushed on the company, in turn, doing what quite a few have done, which Mr. Zimmer suggests in his letter.  Which is to work the short term angle, squeeze the maximum profits out of it and then sell it to the conglomerate, all the while making a profit for just a few.  The sad thing that Corporate America has not come to realize yet or may be they have, is what the Mom & Pop's did and those like Mr. Zimmer did to be a pioneer in their chosen niche and grow it into a successful business that it has become.  Instead what Corporate America does to those businesses is, they streamline and homogenize them into a bland and mediocre product, instead of the unique brand, service and value that it has had with the customers for so many years and the importance of maintaining and improving the brand, service and value, so the business continues on for years to come. When Corporate America has milked all it can from cheap labor in many foreign countries and have milked all the profits they can from whatever business they are milking at the time, where do they go from there? Do they give the shaft to these foreign countries and bring labor back to the U.S.? Where it belongs? Or do they milk the profits and continue to destroy Mother Earth for all she's got and stand proud of their accomplishment of sinking both the economic world and the physical earth? My vote is for the latter, because all the signs point in that direction.
Jun 27, 2013 11:01AM
Jun 27, 2013 10:59AM
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I will no longer shop at their store, unless Mr. Zimmer is reinstated. He is the Men's Warehouse.
Jun 27, 2013 10:54AM
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Everyone, I took the time this morning to call the Menswearhouse headquarters and voice my personal objection to their orchestrated incorrect firing of Mr. Zimmer. I told them I will boycott their stores till he is rehired. You should do the same if your support Mr. Zimmer.
The stupid board members are as dumb as the the ones running/ruining Penny's.
Their egos and short sighted management skills will cause the stock to drop.

Jun 27, 2013 11:09AM
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I currently buy at least 2 to 3 suits a year at Men's Wearhouse.  Position on a board was obviously used to try to gain self profit and power.  Getting rid of Zimmer was the last straw.  Will never buy anything there again.  Good Luck you smart board members!
Jun 27, 2013 12:38AM
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It'll be interesting to see what they do with the commercials---I will always picture him and hear the sound of his voice---are they going to put a monkey in a suit?  I hear they work cheap!


Jun 27, 2013 10:50AM
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Mr. Zimmer, I applaud your integrity.  You sir are a dying bread.  I was raised with old scholl ethics that I still try to apply everyday.  I get ridiculed and suffer loses professionally for sticking up for what I believe in.  I may not get my rewards in this life, but God has a place for me one day.  I pray that you can find piece at knowing the great things you accomplished in the past no matter what the future holds for.  Don't compromise and don't give up.  You are a good man that has integrity wich is rare in these days and times.  Take cake and God Bless!!!!!!!

 

 

Jun 27, 2013 11:01AM
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I for one will never shop there again and hope that he drops all his shares so he won't suffer
Jun 27, 2013 10:33AM
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Here is the perfect example of why making ones company public can go wrong.  In the euphoria of making more money and instant growth by making a company public people have to realize that they can easily loose what they had built.  If Mr Zimmer had just kept his company private and limited the lure of instant wealth in order to keep the vision, principles, and a positive work environment the top priority he would still be in control.  Do we not remember when Facebook was getting ready to go public that there was talk of replacing Zuckerberg because he did not fit the mold of a CEO.  When you allow those drooling for more money to have any ability to control a company, they will do whatever it takes to make that money.  They don't care about who created the business, who works in the trenches, the quality of product, all they want is greater profit.  It's too bad that Zimmer has been pushed out.  I hope he can take his $ and build another company offering the same product and service that he wanted in the first place.  Then beat them at their own game.
Jun 27, 2013 11:00AM
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I too grew up watching Mr. Zimmer on TV and seeing his company grow.

 

It's a sad state to see what retail has become: Sell fast, sell cheap, sell a lot.  Make profits to line our own pockets and forget customer or employee loyalty.  Who cares if they go to another store, there's another chump who'll buy if we mark up the prices and let them think it's a great sale!

 

My husband always bought at MW and it was full service.  Now I'm wary to see how the company is going to change in the coming months.

Jun 27, 2013 1:03AM
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 Has anyone noticed, most businesses have changed the way corporate America works. Way too many require two year commitments as customers. Then they hire ignoramuses to answer the phone and negotiate contracts. Then they push customers to pay over the internet with credit cards automatically so it becomes very difficult to stop payment and cancel terrible contracts. Then they modify the internet payment system so the customer does not get a statement and cannot access his account to make payments he know are due.
 Does this resemble Men's warehouse? No! Different business. But, yes, greedy men ignoring the needs of customers, forgetting that is where the money comes from. However, I never bought anything from Men's Warehouse because of the poor service or lack of service the few times I walked into their stores. So, what is my point? Big business is just a rip off!
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