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Men's Wearhouse founder looks to marry tech and tuxes

After being ousted from the suit retailer, George Zimmer is re-creating himself as a tech entrepreneur. He's launched two startups this year, including tuxedo rental site Generation Tux.

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George Zimmer used his own fortune to back Generation Tux, which now has an inventory of 30,000 suits. CNET

After losing a power struggle with his board, George Zimmer in 2013 was fired from Men's Wearhouse after founding the suit retailer more than 40 years ago.

He's now back with a startup called Generation Tux, an online tuxedo and suit rental firm that puts him in competition with his old company.

"People want to know if there's any revenge. Not really," Zimmer said in an interview Tuesday, after unveiling his new venture at Salesforce's annual Dreamforce conference last week. "We're too busy trying to create what we have to worry about them."

Zimmer, whose gray beard and deep voice have been key parts of Men's Wearhouse TV commercials for decades, will help bring Generation Tux plenty of attention. He's also experienced in building up a rental service. Men's Wearhouse, which acquired rival Jos. A. Bank after ousting Zimmer, rents out more tuxes than any other company in the US and generates more than $400 million in revenue annually. Zimmer's hope is to take rentals -- a highly profitable part of Men's Wearhouse's business model -- and focus a company only on that.

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However, the startup faces stiff competition. There are a slew of new players vying for the online tuxedo rental market, with firms including Menguin, The Black Tux and SimpleTux hoping to gain customers' business for their next special event.

A Men's Wearhouse representative didn't respond to a request for comment.

With the backing of Zimmer's fortune and Salesforce Ventures, Generation Tux now has a warehouse in Louisville, Kentucky, filled with 30,000 suits and tuxes -- along with shirts, shoes, cummerbunds and ties. Each suit has an RFID (radio frequency identification) chip inside, cutting out the need for an unsightly rental barcode on the suits and saving time by allowing workers to scan boxes for their contents without even opening them.

Entering the e-commerce world has been new for the self-described "tech luddite," but Zimmer seems to be catching up quickly. He launched another startup, online tailoring marketplace zTailors, earlier this year.

"It's been about hiring the right people and combining high-tech and high-touch," Zimmer said. "We're able to make everything more efficient by matching supply and demand with technology."

After helping bring in millions of customers to Men's Wearhouse with his line -- "You're going to like the way you look" -- Zimmer is already toying with a new catchphrase he hopes will make Generation Tux a hit.

"We've got you covered," he said.