Chairman Eddie Lampert has been given another chance to rescue Sears Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ: SHLD) from bankruptcy. Judge Robert Drain is requiring Lampert's hedge fund, ESL Investments, to pay a USD 120 Million deposit by 4:00 p.m. Wednesday to allow for a deal to keep 425 Sears and Kmart stores open. Lampert has been fighting to keep a few hundred Sears and Kmart stores open since Oct. 15 when Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Prior to this decision, Sears had planned to tell the court it rejected Lampert’s USD 4.4 Billion dollar offer to buy the retailer in December, claiming the bid fell short. Lampert’s offer also proposed forgiving USD 1.3 Billion of debt he holds in exchange for ownership of the reassembled company.
A new bid by Lampert would need to fully address over USD 200 Million in bankruptcy costs incurred by the Company. Sears will now consider a revised offer submitted by Lampert versus potential liquidation during a bankruptcy auction on Jan. 14.
Sears landlords and bondholders have been critical of Lampert’s pre-bankruptcy transactions. These unsecured creditors have pushed for Sears to liquidate seeking better financial recovery. Lampert’s hedge fund, ESL, has stressed that all transactions conducted with Sears during Lampert's tenure were approved by Sears' board.
Lampert’s bid is the only standing offer to keep the retailer open. It is possible those wishing to shut down the company bid more for the assets.
Sears’ assets have dwindled the past few years as it faced declining sales and a mountain of debt. Remaining operational could spare roughly 50,000 jobs.