Byline: Brian Dunn

MONTREAL — Sears Canada Inc. chairman Paul Walters is reportedly a top candidate to become the new chairman and chief executive at Sears, Roebuck & Co. in the U.S. when Arthur Martinez retires at the end of the year.
Sears, Roebuck and its 55-percent-owned subsidiary Sears Canada could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Walters and Martinez worked closely when Walters was his special assistant at Sears.
Some industry analysts think Walters makes a good candidate.
Chicago newspapers have already listed him as a possible successor.
Other names mentioned include Julian Day, chief operations officer at Sears, Roebuck, and Alan Lacey, president of the credit and home services division, although Sears recently hired a search firm to find a successor, suggesting that an executive from outside the organization could be picked for the top job.
Toronto-based analyst Len Kubas, who runs Kubas Consultants, said Walters has expanded Sears’s market share at a time when department-store sales have been lagging. Sears Canada turned in a record performance last year, boosting earnings 36 percent from 1998 to $135.7 million (C$199.6 million) on sales of $4.16 billion (C$6.13 billion) versus $3.72 billion (C$5.48 billion).
“He’s the head of one of the most profitable divisions of Sears, Roebuck,” said Richard Talbot of Talbot Consultants, Toronto.
He also noted that Walters was a special assistant to Martinez, who was impressed enough to send him to Toronto to head up Sears Canada.
“The question remains whether they would want to take him away from the good job he’s doing at Sears [Canada], and unfinished business such as its e-commerce project and the relaunch of Eatons,” said Talbot.
Sears recently announced it is developing a separate online shopping portal on which other retailers can buy space. The retailer also said it has acquired 16 T. Eaton Co. locations in Canada.
Some of the locations will be converted to Sears; others will be renovated and reformatted to compete against the Bay department stores. The discontinued Eaton’s catalog will also be relaunched.