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Sears being open, after Edward Lampert Prevails in bankruptcy auction

Billionaire Edward Lampert won a bankruptcy auction for Sears Holdings Corp., keeping the well-known warehouse chain from closing all of its remaining stores, according to a person familiar with the case.

Mr. Lampert, a hedge fund manager who ruled Sears into bankruptcy, ruled to sweep its $ 5 billion offer over several days of negotiations with Sears board and creditors, the person said.

His last ditch rescue plan would hold about 400 stores open. The offer bids out a bid, which was supported by most Sears creditors and landlords, by Abacus Advisory Group LLC to close all stores and sell inventory. Reuters previously reported Mr. Lampert had ruled.

Sears' long-standing leader, who is also the largest creditor and largest shareholder, has distorted to keep control of the company since it was filed for protection from creditors in October. He went down as general manager at that time, but remained as leader.

The 1[ads1]26-year-old Sears was once the dominant dealer in America. However, it will arise from bankruptcy as a shadow of the former self with about 425 places, making it difficult to compete against healthier chains with thousands of sites separately – for example


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Home Depot

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– as well as with the growing ubiquitous industry of

"I don't know what's left to shop there," said Patrick Garrett, a retired consultant. Ever since Sears, near his home in Calabasas, California, closed in November, he has visited

Lowe is

s. for craft tools,

Best buy

for appliances and

J.C. Penney

for clothes. "I have to drive 40 miles to get to the nearest Sears now," said the 70-year-old.

Retailing has become a scale to cover the fixed costs of running stores, department stores, e-commerce websites and a supply chain that knits them all. Sears, on the other hand, has shrunk for years by closing stores and shedding businesses and brands, including

The country's end

clothing brand and craft tools.

At the top in 2006, a year after Mr. Lampert took control of merging Kmart and Sears, the company operated more than 2,300 stores. In October, it entered into legal protection with fewer than 700 locations and had racked up seven years of loss. Annual sales had fallen to $ 16.7 billion, down from $ 49 billion in 2005.

At the time of the Kmart merger, Mr. Lampert was a Wall Street hotshot that was often compared to legendary investor Warren Buffett. Sears case has not only damaged the company's reputation, but also Lampert.

Now he has what may be his last chance to prove that his counter-strategy is the right one. He has long argued that when the retailer moves online, chains need fewer store stores. His mantra for Sears is making it an "asset-light" company.

Nevertheless, there are few presents by large retailers who shrink their way to prosperity. One rare exception is Federated Department Stores Inc., filed for bankruptcy protection in 1990 as part of Campeau Corp., appeared and continued to swallow up rivals to become the current one.


"Sears is so far below critical mass," said Steve Dennis, a consultant and former Sears executive, who left the company before Mr. Lampert took control. "What is it about having fewer stores – which doesn't allow you to spend so much on marketing or have supply chain efficiency – that suddenly makes it a successful strategy?"

In recent years, chains such as Toys & # 39; R & 39; Us Inc., Sports Authority Inc., Bon-Ton Stores Inc. and RadioShack have disappeared after filing for bankruptcy protection. Others like Matrass Firm Inc. and Payless ShoeSource have re-emerged from bankruptcy after cutting debt and closing hundreds of stores.

Mr. Lampert also buys the Kenmore and DieHard brands, the company's Sears Auto Centers and its Home Services business, along with inventory, intangible assets and other assets. The rescue plan will save up to 50,000 jobs.

"Our planned business plan assumes significant strategic measures and investments in a large-format, straightforward network and small stores, digital assets and mutual operational businesses," said Mr. Lampert, writing in a December 28 letter to Sears financial advisers. that our strategy will allow Sears to thrive in an integrated consumer and retail landscape. "

His bid, the only offer to keep Sears open, overwhelmed opposition from unsecured creditors, who initially claimed they would recover more from liquidation, protesting against the fact that $ 1.3 billion of Mr. Lamperts's offer was in the form of forgiveness of debt owed to its fund ESL Investments Inc.

The unsecured creditors also fought a provision that issued Mr. Lampert and others from liability related to real estate sales and spinoffs that they say may have siphoned value away from the company. is approved by independent directors, and was designed to raise funds for Sears until it could return to profitability.

To overcome resistance, the Security Fund Manager increased his offer by $ 600 million last week. The revised offer did not contain any new money, but promised to undertake obligations that could further drive the dealer into debt. It also contained a further 57 real estate brokers as well as accounts receivable and inventory.

Not everyone sees Sears as a lost cause. Some of their surviving stores are located in fresh shopping malls, and elsewhere in rural areas face less competition as rivals have closed stores or gone out of business. But major changes need to be made to make Sears viable, analysts say.

"We believe there is a way for them to survive, but they must dump clothes and acquire the entire store for hard lines," said Craig Johnson, president of the consulting firm Customer Growth Partners. "Sears still has a lot of credibility in appliances, and they can rebuild that business."

Former executives say that the idea was considered many years ago, but considered impenetrable, because consumers buy large ticket items such as devices too rarely. It will also depend on Sear's ability to reduce the size of the stores, which it has tried to do by leasing excess space to grocery stores and competing retail chains.

A drawing for the company's future may lie with a remodeled store in Oak Brook, Ill., Which opened in October. At 62,000 square meters, it's about one third of its original size. The encrypted store no longer sells consumer electronics and jewelry, although most other product categories are available.

Maybe a bigger stumble to Sears is Mr. Lampert himself. Although he has raised money into the company through short-term loans and said he has tried to do everything to keep it afloat, his counter-contra approach is to drive the dealer, including a retreat to upgrade stores without the promise of return on it. the investment – has proved disastrous.

"Any model with Eddie involved is a no-go," Johnson said.

Write to Suzanne Kapner at and Lillian Rizzo at

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