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Sears chairman moves to buy retailer out of bankruptcy

December 29, 2018

The chairman of Sears submitted a bid to buy his company out of bankruptcy and save the storied retailer from liquidation — at least for now, according to news reports.

Eddie Lampert made the offer late Friday afternoon, Reuters and CNBC reported, citing unnamed sources. Lampert lined up about $1 billion in financing to acquire the company and save about 425 stores and 50,000 jobs, Reuters reported.

Lampert, the only potential buyer aiming to keep the business running, proposed earlier this month to buy Sears through his hedge fund, ESL Investments, for $4.6 billion. The bid, however, must still be reviewed and approved by the bankruptcy court, which could decide to that selling off Sears assets is the best way to satisfy creditors. Sears has also solicited liquidation bids.

Lampert, his hedge fund and Sears did not respond to requests for comment.

Lampert’s bid came just a few hours after Sears, headquartered in Illinois, said it would close 80 more stores next year, including seven in Texas. Only one, in Port Arthur, is in the Houston region. Six other Sears stores remain open in the region: its locations at Willowbrook Mall, North Shepherd, Deerbrook Mall, Plaza Paseo Mall in Pasadena, Mall of the Mainland in Texas City and Parkdale Mall in Beaumont.

Sears, which also operates Kmart-branded stores, filed for bankruptcy in New York in October, listing $6.9 billion in assets and $11.3 billion in debts. It has sold much of its best real estate and shuttered some 400 stores in an effort to stay afloat.

Locally, Sears has closed stores at Baybrook Mall; Greenspoint Mall; Memorial City Mall; its longtime location in Midtown; San Jacinto Mall; The Woodlands Mall; West Oaks Mall; and Westwood Mall.

Sears, of course, is not the only department store chain struggling because of competition from online retailers and big-box stores. One longtime rival, J.C. Penney, watched its stock fall below $1 share earlier this week. The stock closed Friday at $1.03.

Sears, founded 125 years ago, survived the Great Depression and two world wars. It joins other brick-and-mortar retailers that have filed for bankruptcy in recent years, including Toys R Us, Gymboree, Payless ShoeSource and rue21.

John Roper and Bloomberg News contributed.

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