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Men’s Wearhouse Fires its Founder, Spokesman George Zimmer

Men’s Wearhouse no longer likes the way George Zimmer looks.

Zimmer, the founder, chairman and the public face of the discount apparel chain, has been terminated, according to a brief statement from the company.

Men’s Wearhouse gave no reason for Zimmer’s departure — which surfaced on Wednesday, just hours before the company postponed its annual shareholders meeting. A company spokesman declined comment, but said Zimmer’s departure won’t affect operations.

Since the mid-1980s, Men’s Wearhouse TV ads featured the baritone-voiced Zimmer with his signature slogan: “You’re going to like the way you look. I guarantee it.”

The former substitute schoolteacher built Men’s Wearhouse from a lone Houston store that used a cigar box as a cash register, into one of the nation’s largest men’s specialty retailers, with 1,239 stores under the Men’s Wearhouse, Moores, K&G and Tux brands.

In a statement to cable news channel CNBC, Zimmer said in the past several months he had expressed his concerns about the direction of the company to the board of directors and that the board had “chosen to silence my concerns through termination as an executive officer.”

Zimmer’s ouster comes less than a week after Men’s Wearhouse reported a 23 percent gain in first-quarter earnings on a 5 percent sales increase. After falling about 16 percent in 2012, shares were up about 20 percent so far this year before Wednesday’s announcement. Shares slumped nearly 7 percent in early trading before closing off 1 percent at $37.04.

Zimmer, 64, served as CEO from 1991 until 2011, when he was named executive chairman. According to the company’s latest proxy, he holds a 3.5 percent stake.

Richard Jaffe, a retail analyst at Stifel & Co., says Zimmer’s abrupt departure came as a surprise. Jaffe, who has a buy rating on the company, says Zimmer’s transition from hands-on manager to executive chairman may have hastened his ouster.

“We believe that despite Zimmer’s planned transition to a smaller role at the company, he had difficulty letting go of the reins and the leadership of the business,” Jaffe says. “We believe that this led to a conflict with the board and his subsequent termination.”

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