The sale of Sears to billionaire hedge fund owner and the former chief executive officer of the retailer is now complete.
Edward S. Lampert, his hedge fund ESL Investments and its affiliate Transform Holdco bought what was left of Sears Holdings Corp. and all assets for about $5.2 billion on Monday. Judge Robert Drain approved the sale last Friday in a New York bankruptcy court.
The decision came after three days of deliberations, during which creditors argued Lampert and ESL were only trying to save the company to grow their own wallets. Attorneys for ESL, however, argued that allowing the firm’s affiliate to buy Sears would also save tens of thousands of jobs.
Drain ruled in favor of Lampert, who is chairman of Sears Holdings, and his crew, writing in his decision that Lampert is a “good faith purchaser and the buyer, and ESL, are acting in good faith.”
The deal includes 223 Sears stores and 202 Kmart stores, and will save about 45,000 people’s jobs.
“The best possible outcome has now been realized for all stakeholders, including Sears’ many associates, Shop Your Way members, vendors and other partners,” Lampert said in a statement released through ESL on Monday. “ESL looks forward to a new era at Sears and Kmart that builds on their proud histories, while finding new ways to innovate and grow to adapt to the forces transforming the retail industry. We are ready for this exciting opportunity to help return Sears to profitability and will apply ourselves every day in pursuit of that goal.”
Unable to pay its bills, Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Oct. 15. At the time, the retailer was operating just under 700 stores — a sharp decline from the roughly 3,770 stores Sears was operating at its peak more than a decade ago.
And the retailer, once America’s largest, hasn’t been profitable for years. Revenues have fallen from $53 billion in 2006 to just $16.7 billion in 2018.
But ESL said as part of the restructuring process the new Sears will have “a footprint of profitable retail sales.”
In fact, according to a statement released by ESL at the closing of the sale, the new Sears has $400 million in “excess availability on its new asset-backed credit facility.…The new Sears has a plan to be EBITDA [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization] positive in fiscal [year] 2019.”
The company is currently in search of a new ceo. Robert Riecker will remain the retailer’s chief financial officer, with Leena Munjal as chief digital officer and Greg Ladley as president of softlines.