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Sears CEO Edward Lampert opens his wallet, again, with $100 million loan

Lauren Zumbach, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Business News

CHICAGO -- Sears Holdings is getting another cash infusion from CEO Edward Lampert in the run-up to retail's key holiday season.

Sears borrowed $100 million from affiliates of Lampert's hedge fund, ESL Investments, which also agreed to lend up to $100 million more by Dec. 1.

Sears tapped funds made available through a January agreement that gave the company access to up to $500 million, backed by mortgages on 61 Sears properties.

Sears borrowed all $500 million, leaving that line of credit fully tapped, according to a regulatory filing. But the retailer, headquartered in suburban Chicago, repaid about $100.5 million after selling real estate, freeing up funds for the $100 million loan disclosed Thursday.

However, Sears can't get the other $100 million from affiliates of Lampert's hedge fund unless it identifies additional collateral to secure the loan.

Any new loans under the agreement are due April 3, 2018, and carry an 11 percent interest rate, unlike the original loans under the January agreement, which carry an 8 percent interest rate and are due in July 2020, according to a regulatory filing.

The National Retail Federation is predicting holiday retail sales will be up 3.6 to 4 percent in November and December, citing steady economic momentum, strong consumer confidence and an extra weekend day in the shopping season.

Consumers loosening their wallets would be welcome news for Sears. In August, the retailer said its second-quarter loss narrowed to $251 million, but the retailer continued to struggle with falling sales. Sales at stores open at least a year were down 11.5 percent across Sears and Kmart stores.

Earlier this year, Lampert accused vendors of exploiting unfair coverage of the company's finances, undermining a turnaround attempt.

"We continue to focus on actions to provide the company with additional financial flexibility to generate liquidity and demonstrate our ability to manage our business while meeting all of our financial obligations," Sears spokesman Howard Riefs said in an email.

(c)2017 Chicago Tribune

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