June 19, 2013 at 12:43 PM ET
Men's Wearhouse has fired George Zimmer, its bearded executive chairman famous for his TV ad line: "You're going to like the way you look. I guarantee it."
The announcement by the men's clothing retailer that it had severed ties with Zimmer, who founded the company 40 years ago, sent its shares down as much as 6 percent in early trade on Wednesday.
The company, which gave no reason for the termination, also postponed its annual shareholder meeting scheduled for later Wednesday to renominate the existing slate of directors without Zimmer.
Zimmer later told CNBC he had been silenced, after expressing concerns about the company's strategy.
"Over the last 40 years, I have built MW into a multi-billion dollar company with amazing employees and loyal customers who value the products and service they receive.
"Over the past several months I have expressed my concerns to the board about the direction the company is currently heading. Instead of fostering the kind of dialogue in the boardroom that has in part contributed to our success, the board has inappropriately chosen to silence my concerns through termination as an executive officer."
Stifel analysts meanwhile speculated on his departure. "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.
"We believe that this led to a conflict with the board and his subsequent termination," the analysts wrote in a research note.
They noted Zimmer had already begun reducing his role at the company by naming a new CEO two years ago. But despite the near-term uncertainty that the departure has caused, Stifel reiterated its "buy" rating on the company's stock.
Men's Wearhouse, founded in 1973, operates more than 1,100 stores under the Men's Wearhouse, Moores and K&G banners. It reported higher-than-expected results in its most recent quarter, with sales jumping more than 5 percent to $616.5 million. The company had sales of $2.38 billion in 2012.
"I founded this company 40 years ago on the belief that employees should enjoy coming to work every day," Zimmer said in a January 17 statement after Fortune magazine included the company on its list of "100 best companies to work for."
Zimmer, 64, was president from 1974 to 1997 and chief executive from 1991 until June 2011 when he became executive chairman.
He has appeared in his own commercials since 1985, demonstrating the authenticity of the brand and is known for his famous line: "You're going to like the way you look. I guarantee it."
Stifel analysts said "the company has the legal right to his image as well as 500 hours of footage of Zimmer."
(Reuters contributed to this report)
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