Sears' biggest holder bids $4.6B for rest of bankrupt chain

Billionaire who led Sears into bankruptcy offers to buy it

Eddie Lampert offered to buy Sears Holdings Corp. out of bankruptcy in a bid to salvage the failing retail empire he has controlled for more than a decade.

The bid from Lampert's ESL Investments includes about 500 Sears and Kmart stores, headquarters and distribution centers, and Sears brands and businesses including Kenmore, DieHard and Sears Home Services. It then said it would shutter 142 unprofitable stores in the hopes that it could stay in business.

Hundreds of Sears stores across the USA could be saved in what one analyst called "a last-ditch effort" by company chairman Edward Lampert to buy the company out of bankruptcy. That location, at 1502 S. Fourth St., is slated to close by year-end.

Both the unsecured creditors' committee and a special committee of the board are investigating those deals that occurred before Sears filed for bankruptcy protection on October 15.

Despite efforts to cut costs by closing hundreds of stores, Chicago-based Sears has lost more than $11 billion since 2011.

The chairman of Sears, whose ESL Investments ranks as the biggest shareholder and creditor, outlined a US$4.6 billion preliminary bid in documents released Thursday that could include a mix of cash, equity new loans and debt swaps.

In the letter, ESL said it believes long-struggling Sears can successfully reorganize around the smaller group of stores.

ESL also said the plan would save thousands of jobs, noting that the new company expects to offer ongoing employment to about 50,000 Sears employees.

More than a decade ago, the hedge fund manager touted his merger of Kmart and Sears as laying the groundwork for their revival, a scenario that not only didn't pan out, but had Lampert stepping down as CEO of the retailer just after its bankruptcy filing, while retaining the title of chairman.

Others interested in acquiring Sears' assets have until December 28 to submit bids under the timeline approved by the Bankruptcy Court.

Smith, former Obama economic adviser Robert Wolf, FBN's David Asman and Dagen McDowell on Sears filing for bankruptcy protection.

ESL's takeover bid features financing from a variety of sources and a complicated structure not uncommon in bankruptcy auctions.

The hedge fund, ESL Partners, has asked to buy Sears' 500 remaining stores and $1.8 billion in the chain's retail inventory, credit card and pharmacy receivables.

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