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By Associated Press
NEW YORK ̵
The approval means about 425 stores and 45,000 jobs will be preserved.
Eddie Lamperts's bid through an associated ESL hedge fund overheard opposition from a group of unsecured creditors, including shop owners and vendors who tried to block the sale and pushed hard for liquidation.
On Thursday's decision, the US bankruptcy judge Robert Drain of the Southern District of the New York City rejected the committee's allegations that the sales process was unfair and mistaken, that it closed off other parties who might have been interested in buying the business and that Sears had more value to their creditors if it died than it lived.
Lawyers for Sears and ESL claimed that the sale offered the best deal and also preserved jobs.
Drain is expected to place his order on Friday and make it official.
Even with this latest view, Sear's long-term survival remains a open question. Lampert has not submitted any specific recovery plans, and the company is still facing cutthroat competition from Amazon, Target and Walmart. Meanwhile, the stores see their old and murder.
Lampert steered Sears into bankruptcy protection in Chapter 11 in October. The company's corporate parents, who also own Kmart, had 687 stores and 68,000 employees at the time of filing. At the top in 2012, the stores were numbered at 4,000.
Sears was hit hard during the recession and outperformed in its demand by shifting consumer trends and strong rivals. It has not had a profitable year since 2010, and has had 11 straight years of falling sales.
The original original plan had been rejected by a sub-committee of the Sears Board. ESL sweetened the bid several times before the subcommittee gave it OK.
A group of unsecured creditors, who ranked at the bottom of the list to be paid, filed objections to the sale, allegedly falsified financial projections, excessive repurchase, and a spinoff of key brands that removed the business of key assets.
"The tortured story of Sears reads like a Shakespeare tragedy," the group said. "Lampert and ESL managed Sears as if it were a private portfolio company that only existed to maximize the return on investment, ruthlessly damaging Sears, its employees and its creditors."
Lampert personally owns 31 percent of Sears outstanding stock, and his hedge fund holds an 18.5 percent stake, according to FactSet. He resigned as CEO in October after earning that role since 2013.
Under a watch, Sears has survived in part by spinning shops and selling well-known brands as craft tools. He also lent some of his own money.
Lampert has been criticized for not investing in their stores. Even Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat and potential presidential candidate, has attacked him and questioned his commitment to Sears workers.
"I'm worried that Sears may, during your leadership, continue to fight and employees will continue to face uncertainty and anxiety about their future employment and ongoing risks to their benefits and financial security," Warren wrote in a letter to Lampert made available to The Associated Press by an Employee Response Group.
One of the lawyers of Lampert's hedge fund earlier this week testified that the 56-year-old billionaire has been portrayed as a cross between J.Gould, the central tycoon and Barney Fife, a fictional character in the popular TV show "The Andy Griffin Show."
Drainage, the bankruptcy judge, acknowledged that Lampert had been subjected to "verbal abuse."
"He is a rich person and a great boy," Drain said. "And I guess he can take it."
But he added that Lampert "has an opportunity not to be a cartoon character."