Sears Holdings Corp. CEO Eddie Lampert Thursday proposed increasing his stake in Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores Inc. if Sears Hometown explores alternatives — including partnerships for its Kenmore, Craftsman and Diehard brands, and its Sears Home Services business — in order to leverage the value in those units, according to a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The abrupt exit last week of Jeff Balagna, executive vice president, and of Joelle Maher, president and chief member officer, may signal that the company’s forthcoming quarterly report contains dire results that could usher in the company’s long-rumored demise, Business Insider reports.
The company announced on Friday that Steven T. Mnuchin will also step down from the board of directors, effective immediately, as president-elect Donald J. Trump has announced his intention to nominate him as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Treasury. Mnuchin, who is a former Goldman Sachs executive, joined the board 12 years ago as Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Kmart Holding Corporation merged, and in May 2003 he was named to Kmart’s board of directors.
Struggling Sears has had to rebut several rumors speculating its demise in recent weeks, especially about Kmart. In October the retailer dismissed a story that a major toy vendor suspended sales of products to its Kmart unit ahead of the holiday shopping season out of concerns that the retailer wouldn't pay its bills, and earlier that month Lampert rebutted the idea that the company was closing all Kmart stores.
Even the prospect of unloading the Craftsman brand, one of Sears’s remaining fortes — while it could bring in much-needed cash to help the retailer survive the holiday shopping season — is another sign of its impending disappearance from the retail landscape.
While Lampert has consistently denied rumors of the company’s demise and Sears has held on well past the time when many observers believed it would buckle, the company’s Q2 report did reflect a picture of a retailer in its final throes, as sales continued to slide and losses continued to mount to $395 million, or $3.70 per share, compared with its profit of $208 million, or $1.84 per share in the year ago period. Adjusting earnings losses were a $2.03 per share from $2.40 per share in Q2 last year.
The results spell trouble for the retailer as the holidays close in, warned Brian Sozzi at TheStreet in August. "I suspect the quarter from Sears will be so bad that people will voice concern on the company getting the inventory it needs to drive its business during the holiday season," he wrote. "And if it doesn't have the inventory during the most important quarter of the year, look for the market to reason the company could be headed for a financial tailspin sometime in 2017.”
The company announced in August that it would receive $300 million of additional debt financing secured by a junior lien against inventory, receivables and other working capital, from Lampert’s ESL Investments, Inc. hedge fund.