Men's Wearhouse Founder Says Jos. A. Bank Deal Was Bound to Fail

George Zimmer, the ousted founder of Men’s Wearhouse, says the Jos. A. Bank deal was always 'ill-fated.'

George Zimmer, the ousted founder of Men’s Wearhouse, says the Jos. A. Bank deal was always 'ill-fated.'

Photographer: Peter Earl McCollough/The New York Times via Redux
  • Zimmer speaks in interview after company's shares plunge
  • Ex-chairman now runs tuxedo-rental, tailor e-commerce sites

Men’s Wearhouse Inc. founder and longtime pitchman George Zimmer, who was fired by the retailer in 2013, said the company’s merger with Jos. A. Bank was doomed from the start.

“I thought it was ill-fated,” he said Friday in an interview on Bloomberg Television. “I recommended they not make the acquisition.” 

Eighteen months ago, Men’s Wearhouse acquired its onetime rival for $1.5 billion, a move now being called into question after the company said late Wednesday that same-store sales at the Jos. A. Bank division dropped 35 percent in the first five weeks of the quarter. The news sent the company’s shares and bond prices tumbling.

Zimmer, 67, who founded Men’s Wearhouse in 1973, was ousted as executive chairman before the deal was in the works. Still, he said that in 40 years of competition with Jos. A. Bank, he never found a merger to be appealing.

“They had a problem,” Zimmer said. “Joe Bank had really damaged their brand over a number of years by running incessant promotions so that nobody wanted to go there and pay regular price.”

CEO Clash

Men’s Wearhouse fired Zimmer in June 2013 as it tried to appeal to a younger generation. Zimmer had repeatedly clashed with his handpicked chief executive officer, Douglas Ewert, over strategy, a person familiar with the matter said at the time. The disagreements focused in part on plans to sell K&G, a men’s, women’s and children’s apparel chain, and to buy back shares, said the person, who asked not to be named in 2013 because the matter was private.

Although the company gave no reason for the termination, Zimmer called his firing an effort to silence his concerns over the company’s direction.

Zimmer said Friday that he still holds stock in the combined company and is disappointed that he’s lost “millions of dollars” in the recent moves. Men’s Wearhouse shares had plummeted 65 percent this year through the close of trading Thursday.

Zimmer became known to audiences for his signature tagline at the end of Men’s Wearhouse’s commercials: “You’re going to like the way you look. I guarantee it.” Since leaving the company, he’s started two new businesses: Generation Tux, an online tuxedo rental business, and zTailors, a nationwide network of on-demand tailoring professionals. The companies are meant to be sister businesses, with tailors available to perfect the outfits of an entire wedding party, Zimmer said. 

To promote Generation Tux, Zimmer has partnered with ESPN to do commercials for the college football playoffs. He plans to marry the first couple of 2016 in Times Square that night.

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