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Sears makes a case for conviction for rescue agreement with chairman Lampert



(Reuters) – The once mighty Sears department store chain struggled to survive a bankruptcy judge on Monday, claiming that the proposed $ 5.2 billion sales to President Eddie Lampert would help save 45,000 jobs and hold 425 stores open.

FILE PHOTO: A disassembled sign sits snugly outside a Sears department store one day after it was closed as part of several store closures of Sears Holdings Corp. in the United States in Nanuet, New York, USA, January 7, 2019. REUTERS / Mike Segar / File Photo

US Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain said on Monday that he would rule on sales to Lampert's ESL Investments Inc. later this week after hearings that were likely to run on Thursday.

A lawyer for Sears Holdings Corp. told the court that he hoped the deal would close on Friday, clearing the way for Sears to end his four-month stint in bankruptcy in Chapter 11 and begin his new life as a private company controlled by Lampert .

But first, the company must overcome objections from hundreds of creditors and the official committee that represents them.

Monday's hearing in White Plains, New York, started with Sears investment banks, Brandon Aebersold of Lazard, and Sears director Bill Transier who testifies to sales negotiations and consummate plans.

Transier acknowledged that the satellite plan possibly included three retail stores a month this year, sales of $ 600 million in real estate over the next three years and unspecified employee cuts.

"Their ability to run their business properly should be their responsibility," he said.

Creditors have argued that the company's future success is the premise on what they say is an unlikely turnaround lead by Lampert, which creditors have accused of removing the company with value during the annual downturn.

Creditors have also claimed that the sales process was wrong and that the underestimated Sears by as much as $ 1.3 billion.

Creditors want to pursue ESL and Lampert, Sears largest shareholder and creditor when filed for bankruptcy, for what they claim is years of scams, such as the spin-off of the Lands End brand.

Lampert has disappeared the agreements as a sign of his commitment to fund Sears despite his struggle, and he has listed the transactions approved by independent directors.

In 2005, Lampert merged the department store with the discount chain Kmart in a $ 11 billion deal.

Sears, once known for his mail order catalogs, dates back to 1893. Merchandise from toys, medicine, gramophones, cars, kithus and tombstones made it to Amazon.com Inc of its time.

Reporting Jessica DiNapoli in New York and Tom Hals in Wilmington, Del .; Editing by Matthew Lewis

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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