Sears’ Eddie Lampert gets another chance to try to buy the company
Customers line up for the re-opening event at a renovated Sears store, Oct. 4, 2018 at Oakbrook Center.(Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)
People walk by the Six Corners Sears store at the intersection of Irving Park Road and Cicero and Milwaukee avenues in Chicago on July 13, 2018. The Six Corners location, the last Sears store within the Chicago limits, is set to close in days.(Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)
Customers browse the tool section at a renovated Sears store, Oct. 4, 2018, at Oakbrook Center.(Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)
The Sears campus on Friday, Oct. 12, 2018 in Hoffman Estates. The campus was once home to the corporations headquarters.(Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune)
Shown in a 1992 photo, the 786-acre site north of the Northwest Tollway and west of Illinois Highway 59 in Hoffman Estates would be transformed into the home of the Sears’ Merchandise Group headquarters.(Chris Walker / Chicago Tribune)
Customers browse appliances at a renovated Sears store, Oct. 4, 2018 at Oakbrook Center.(Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)
A shopper leavers the Sears North Riverside Park Mall located in North Riverside on Oct. 11, 2018.(Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)
Sears informed employees in April at its last store in the city, at Six Corners in the Old Irving Park neighborhood in Chicago that it is closing this summer.(Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)
Customers browse snowblowers at a renovated Sears store, Oct. 4, 2018 at Oakbrook Center.(Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)
Small appliances on sale at Sears located at the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg on Nov. 19, 2015.(Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)
Customers browse apparel at a renovated Sears store, Oct. 4, 2018 at Oakbrook Center.(Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)
Carl Burson Jr. carries a billboard and distributes flyers as people are making last minute shopping stops at the Sears store on North State Street in Chicago. The store closed on March 31, 2014.(Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune)
Sears mechanic Mike Atamian removes a tire from its rim at the Sears Auto Center at Woodfield Mall on May 11, 2018. Amazon and Sears began working together on tires sales and installation. Customers who buy tires through Amazon can now have them shipped to Sears and Sears Auto Center will install them.(Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune)
Salesman Lenny Vertucci shows a lawn mower at the Sears store in Oakbrook shopping center to Henry Furlanetto of Hodgkins on March 1, 1989.(John Dziekan / Chicago Tribune)
Robert Rosenthal, of Kildeer, left, and friend Jan-Michael Wyckoff, of Schaumburg,pick up the last catalogs for Sears Roebuck and Co. at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg on Jan. 26, 1993. The company announced massive cutbacks, including the catalog.(Chuck Berman / Chicago Tribune)
Pedestrians walk past the Sears department store, Dec. 6, 2013, on North State Street in Chicago. Company officials said they will spin off Sears’ Lands’ End clothing business.(Anthony Souffle / Chicago Tribune)
An R.R. Donnelley worker prepares the Sears apparel catalog for mailing on December 28, 1988.(Don Casper / Chicago Tribune)
People shop at the Sears store at the Hawthorn Shopping Center in Vernon Hills on July 22, 1983.(Phil Greer / Chicago Tribune)
Visitors tour the 14 story tower from the former Sears, Roebuck & Co.'s headquarters during the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Open House Chicago, Oct. 17, 2015.(Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)
The longtime Sears Lawrence Avenue store in the Lincoln Square neighborhood closed its doors in August 2016. The store was the oldest Sears retail store left in Chicago, but the corporate ax fell in May.(Phil Velasquez / Chicago Tribune)
At the Sears Roebuck and Co. store in Aurora, customer Tabb Wierengo uses an electronic kiosk for financial service information on June 20, 1985. Experts say electronic shopping is the wave of the future, but that it will take time to reach the consumer.(Sally Good / Chicago Tribune)
The Sears Tower, the tallest building in the United States, is officially renamed the Willis Tower on, July 16, 2009, in Chicago.(Chris Walker / Chicago Tribune)
The Sears’ State Street store looking from Congress toward Van Buren during the early evening on Oct. 29, 1982.(Quentin C. Dodt / Chicago Tribune)
People wait to get into the remodeled Sears store at State Street and Congress on April 11, 1978.(Frank Hanes / Chicago Tribune)
The machine in this photo is one of the 36 robots that carry mail around the Sears Tower. Self-operating and running on battery power, the robot follows an invisible flurorescent trail applied to the carpeting. It makes periodic 20-second stopsso that Sears secretaries along the way can pick up and deposit mail. It was designed by the same group who helped build the Lunar Rover, Lear Siegler, Inc.(Ovie Carter / Chicago Tribune)
Stockholders watch as Sears Roebuck & Co. former chairman Arthur M. Wood reports and 81 percent rise in net profits for the first quarter of 1977.(Ernie Cox Jr. / Chicago Tribune)
Estella Barnes, left, and Marjorie Kimmel, rear, re-tag apparel as Lola Snyder checks merchandise at Sears in the River Oaks Center in February 1989 as Sears converted to “every day low prices”.(Walter Neal / Chicago Tribune)
An employee from the Sears Service Center works on fixing an appliance at the Sears Service Center in Deerfield in January 1983.(Frank Hanes / Chicago Tribune)
People pass by the catalog sales section of Sears in Schaumburg, circa Jan. 25, 1993. Competitors are going after the Sears catalog business.(Jim Prisching / Chicago Tribune)
Shoppers at Sears on Dec. 21. 2017, in West Dundee.(Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune)
Exterior of the Sears Tower, Aug. 8, 2007, while the Tower searches for tenants to fill their vacant spaces. Later, the building would be renamed Willis Tower.(Candice C. Cusic / Chicago Tribune)
A welder works near the top of the 110-story Sears Tower on April 13, 1973.(William Yates / Chicago Tribune)
Eddie Lampert will get another shot at rescuing Sears Holdings Corp. from liquidation.
The Sears chairman and former chief executive must put up $120 million by Wednesday to get a chance to take part in an auction against other bidders, Ray Schrock, Sears’ lead attorney, said at a court hearing Tuesday. Of that amount, $17.9 million is nonrefundable, he said. As many as 50,000 jobs are at stake.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to get to an auction and have a chance to save Sears as a going concern,” Schrock said.
Lampert will be able to use debt he controls toward the purchase, a process known as credit bidding, Schrock said. But the company will reserve the right to review that offer and compare it to others. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain said that means Lampert’s use of a credit bid has not been pre-approved. The billionaire’s $4.4-billion offer for selected stores, rejected last week, would have been funded partly by the conversion of debt to equity.
The official committee of unsecured creditors will continue to challenge the legitimacy of the debt Lampert holds, the panel’s attorney, Abid Qureshi, told the judge. That could make it harder for Lampert to use the debt as if it were cash at an auction.
Drain reminded the Sears lawyers that the company has an obligation to review all its options, not just the offer from Lampert and his hedge fund, ESL Investments Inc.
At the same time, the 126-year-old retailer is still preparing for liquidation, Schrock said.
“ESL appreciates the encouragement from the court and the constructive engagement of the debtors as we work to formalize our going-concern proposal so that it can be evaluated at the upcoming auction,” an ESL spokesman said in a statement. “We believe in Sears and will continue to do everything we can to ensure that it has a profitable future.”
Sears, the descendant of the mail-order catalog that reshaped American commerce, filed for bankruptcy in October. Lampert and ESL Investments rank as Sears’s biggest shareholder and creditor. They held about $2.5 billion in Sears debt as of September, the result of multiple attempts to keep the chain afloat. The former CEO spent years trying to save the iconic retailer, shutting hundreds of money-losing stores, cutting more than $1 billion in annual expenses and spinning off units such as Lands’ End Inc.
As late as Monday night, the company had told involved parties it planned to announce a liquidation before the stock market opened Tuesday, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
The final push to save Sears from liquidation stretched over the weekend and into three hours of negotiations in a White Plains, N.Y., courthouse Tuesday morning.
The hearing was delayed twice as about a dozen lawyers for Sears and ESL continued talks in the corridor outside the courtroom. The advisors twice updated Drain in his chambers. At one point, the lawyers were talking at once and a court officer said, “Sounds like a zoo in here.”
“It is a zoo!” one of the attorneys replied.
The agreement to allow Lampert another chance was announced shortly after 1 p.m.
It’s not the first frenzied deal Sears has made during its bankruptcy. When the company was in court Nov. 27 to finalize bankruptcy financing, a hedge fund affiliated with ESL swooped in to ignite a last-minute bidding war for the right to provide funding.
“Most likely, the bid still goes nowhere,” Jared Ellias, a professor at UC Hastings College of the Law, said of Lampert’s offer. “But it’s part of the dance of ‘having every last conversation.’ Liquidating an American icon is something one should do one’s best to avoid.”
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