It’s sometimes hard to separate brands from their founders, particularly when those founders also serve as TV pitchmen. Consider how closely Dave Thomas was—and still is—tied to Wendy’s, how Col. Sanders is still the face of KFC, or Martha Stewart’s relationship with her media empire.
So the news that Men’s Wearhouse—a brand that has long been personified in TV ads by its founder, George Zimmer and his catch phrase, “You’re gonna like the way you look”—apparently fired Zimmer
the morning of its annual shareholder meeting is especially curious.
Zimmer had been the executive chairman of the company’s board of directors. The company postponed its shareholder meeting to re-nominate its board without Zimmer, who stepped down from the company’s CEO position in 2011.
The company gave no reason for its action. The reason doesn’t appear to be a fiscal one, though; Men’s Wearhouse’s first-quarter earnings were up 25 percent and sales were up 5 percent.
Shares are up 20 percent for the year.
A terse press release
from the company simply states, “The Board expects to discuss with Mr. Zimmer the extent, if any, and terms of his ongoing relationship with the Company.”
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Zimmer and his slogan are still front and center on the “about” page on the Men’s Wearhouse website
Richard Jaffe, a retail analyst at Stifel & Co., told USA Today
that perhaps Zimmer had difficulty ceding authority.
“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,” he said. “We believe that this led to a conflict with the board and his subsequent termination.”
Others theorized that Men’s Wearhouse is looking to shift its brand strategy to one that appeals to younger men.
Whatever the reason, it’s an unusual case.
“Founders are usually entrenched in the company,” Eleanor Bloxham, CEO of board advisory firm The Value Alliance, told The Huffington Post