George Zimmer speaks on Men’s Wearhouse/Jos. A Bank merger
FORTUNE — Earlier this month, Men’s Wearhouse (MW) agreed to acquire Jos. A Bank Clothiers (JOSB) for $1.8 billion in cash. It brought to a close six months of back-and-forth negotiations that arguably was touched off by Men’s Wearhouse’s decision last summer to fire founder, former CEO and TV pitchman George Zimmer. But Zimmer had declined to opine on the agreement, until now.
In a statement to Fortune, Zimmer said the following:
“To the extent that the merger of Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. Banks provides the combined companies employees and customers a great work environment and shopping experience respectively, I’m supportive of the move.
However, having been a business leader in the industry for over 40 years, I’ve seen the adverse effects of Wall-Street-controlled mergers, which emphasize cost-cutting and other bottom line efficiencies that come at the expense of happy employees and satisfied customers.
I hope Men’s Wearhouse is able to avoid such a result.”
Not exactly a definitive statement, but it is in keeping with his sentiments during an exclusive interview with Fortune last December. In that conversation, he continued to express more concern about the effect of culture drift on Men’s Wearhouse employees. When asked at the time about his initial reaction to the merger talk, here was how he responded:
I was initially surprised, but then I began to think it made a lot of sense. The Men’s Wearhouse had talked about buying Jos. A. Bank 10 years ago and then again a couple of years ago. For many reasons it makes a lot of sense for Jos. A. Bank to buy The Men’s Wearhouse, but also for The Men’s Wearhouse to buy Jos. A. Bank. Neither company has any debt, and it’s never been a better time in terms of interest rates.
The beauty of my current position is that I don’t really care, except that I have around 1 million shares of The Men’s Wearhouse stock. If forced to make a bet, I’d say 2-to-1 that a deal is going to get done.
At today’s opening price for Men’s Wearhouse stock, a position of one million shares would be worth around $52 million.
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