Future of Sears hinges on Monday’s bankruptcy auction
In its 126-year history, Sears grew to become the country’s biggest retailer and outlasted Chicago competitors like Carson Pirie Scott, Montgomery Ward and Wieboldt’s. Its future now hinges on a bankruptcy auction scheduled to start Monday.
Edward Lampert, chairman and former CEO of Hoffman Estates-based Sears Holdings Corp., is trying to buy the retailer with a plan to keep it in business and keep up to 50,000 workers employed. Lampert’s hedge fund, ESL Investments, sweetened its offer for Sears this week, bringing the total value of its proposal to more than $5 billion.
But some of Sears’ creditors are skeptical of ESL, and it’s not yet known how the hedge fund’s proposal stacks up against other offers for the company’s assets.
If Lampert’s plan fails, Sears could face liquidation – the end of the road for an iconic American company.
Online shopping is part of the story, but Sears’ challenges go back decades. It was slow to react to new competition from discount chains and specialty stores and to changes in shopping habits, including a shift away from suburban shopping malls. Lampert was accused of focusing on cost-cutting at the expense of investing in stores. He insisted the company was working to turn itself into a smaller but profitable retailer.