Judge gives Sears reprieve

January 10, 2019

Daily Journal staff and wire report

NEW YORK — Sears received another possible lifeline Tuesday when the company’s chairman and largest shareholder promised to line up the necessary financing to keep the struggling department store chain afloat.

The reprieve came after what Sears lawyers described to a bankruptcy judge in New York as “round-the-clock” negotiations after the company board’s initial rejection of Eddie Lampert’s proposal, which sought to preserve 425 stores and 50,000 workers.

According to lawyers close to the matter, one of the main sticking points was that the bid didn’t include cash. The revised version now requires Lampert to deposit $120 million by 3 p.m. today through his ESL hedge fund.

The fate of Sears remains to be determined. Lampert’s bid will go to an auction set for Jan. 14 and will compete with other bids from liquidators looking to shut down the company.

A committee of unsecured creditors has been pushing for straight liquidation and believes there are litigation claims against ESL for prior transactions.

Sears, which began as a mail order watch business 132 years ago and grew to be the largest retailer in the world, has been in a slow death spiral, hobbled by the Great Recession and outmatched by competitors such as Amazon and Walmart.

Sears once had a sizable imprint in this region. It had three Kankakee County retail outlets over an 85-year period.

A Sears was located in downtown Kankakee from 1933-58, in Kankakee’s Meadowview Shopping Center from 1958 until 1980 and at the Northfield Square Mall in Bradley, where it opened in 1990 and closed last year.

Sears still owns large portions of two warehouse properties in Manteno.

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