- As Sears Holdings searches for a buyer to acquire its remaining stores in Chapter 11, the retailer is also considering liquidation offers, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cited unnamed sources.
- Sears is doing so as Chairman Eddie Lampert and Cyrus Capital Partners — the latter of which just provided a bankruptcy loan to Sears to keep it operating through the holidays — prepare a bid to buy 500 of Sears' best-performing stores, according to the Journal.
- The newspaper reported that Sears advisers "have contacted a number of liquidation firms seeking offers to shut down Sears's stores and sell off the company's merchandise in case the takeover offer falls apart." Sears' plans to sell itself include the possibility for liquidation as an alternative, according to court papers. A Sears spokesperson did not immediately reply to Retail Dive's request for comment.
From the outset of its bankruptcy filing, Sears has signaled its intent to sell a pared-down version of itself in Chapter 11, and the first prospective buyer to emerge was its own chairman and former CEO.
And why wouldn't he? Lampert has been involved with the department store retailer's finances in just about every conceivable way over the past decade, which adds layers of complexity and conflict to the retailer's bankruptcy case. Through his own holdings and that of his hedge fund, ESL Investments, Lampert is the company's largest shareholder as well as one of its largest lenders. (He's also a landlord and supplier to Sears.)
But Lampert's prospective bid for Sears' remaining stores faces numerous obstacles, including a challenge from the retailer's unsecured creditors, a group of which have already challenged Sears' attempts to sell itself.
That group has also sought court permission to delve into Sears' financial transactions involving Lampert and any potential legal violations that may have arisen from them. (ESL, for its part, has denied any wrongdoing.) The unsecured creditor group has said that Sears' attempts to sell itself as an operating retailer, rather than liquidating immediately, represents a waste of hundreds of millions of dollars and could be designed to benefit Lampert over other stakeholders.