With Sears filing for bankruptcy and so many stores closing, the end may be drawing near for the iconic American retailer. Many of us aren’t ready.
An affiliate of ESL Investments, the hedge fund controlled by Sears Holdings Chairman Eddie Lampert has offered to buy the owner of Kmart and Sears stores out of bankruptcy.
Transform Holdco LLC has submitted a bid for substantially all of the assets of Sears Holdings, including 425 stores, which it says is valued at $4.4 billion. The bid includes a $1.3 billion financing commitment from three financial institutions, according to an emailed statement. Transform said that if the bid is successful the company that emerges from bankruptcy would employ up to 50,000 people.
All bids to buy the company out of bankruptcy were due Friday at 4 p.m. ET. A bid doesn’t guarantee that Sears would be saved. The company and its advisers must determine by Jan. 4 whether the bid is “qualified.”
The bid came hours after Sears announced that it would close 80 more Sears and Kmart locations in late March. The long-embattled retailer, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October, had already announced the closing of 143 locations by the end of the year and another 40 Sears and Kmart stores set to close in February 2019.
Lampertmade a $4.6 billion proposal to buy the company out of bankruptcy through ESL on Dec. 6. The deal included 500 stores, 50,000 employees, the Kenmore appliance and DieHard tool brands, key real estate and the company’s inventory and receivables. As of early Friday there was no sign that Lampert had made the bid official.
Sears faces the prospect of liquidating some assets if it doesn’t find the investment it needs. Last week, for example, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Drain allowed the beleaguered retailer to sell its home-improvement service business to Service.com for $60 million.
Sears has suffered for years, as U.S. consumers increasingly turned their backs on brick-and-mortar stores. But the Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based retail giant, a mainstay of American malls for decades, failed to ride the online-shopping trend.
On Oct. 15, Sears Holdings filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, a last-ditch attempt to avoid folding after years of store closures, sales declines and borrowing. At the time of the filing, Sears had just under 700 stores and planned to shut down 142 unprofitable stores. In November, it announced it was closing another 40 stores.
Lampert entered the picture in 2005. The hedge-fund investor pushed Kmart, which he’d bought out of bankruptcy two years earlier, to acquire Sears for $11 billion and then merged the two.
He later resigned as CEO but remains chairman, while propping up the company for years with round after round of debt financing. Lampert has faced criticism for lacking a clear-cut turnaround strategy.
Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday, buckling under its massive debt load and staggering losses. (Oct. 15)