Facing liquidation, Sears gets $5 billion rescue bid from chairman

Lauren Zumbach, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Business News

Also at issue is whether ESL will be able to finance a portion of its bid by trading $1.3 billion in Sears debt it holds for ownership in the reorganized company. That question will be settled at the auction.

The creditors committee has questioned whether a sale that would keep Sears in business can succeed and argued a liquidation would recover more of the money the company owes, according to court filings.

But an earlier version of ESL's bid did win support from three of Sears' vendors, Mien Co., Helen Andrews and Strong Process Garment Factory Co., who said in court filing that they think it is their best shot of being repaid.

Sears has not said how many other offers it received or whether any others would let the retailer remain in business.

While the changes strengthen ESL's offer, they may not win over skeptical creditors, said Sandeep Dahiya, associate professor at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business. Sears has been struggling to get shoppers in stores for a long time, and it's not clear how a restructuring would fix that, he said. With its large real estate holdings, creditors may see it as "more valuable dead than alive," Dahiya said.

The $5 billion rescue bid would have been more compelling if it hadn't come from ESL, Dahiya added.

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While Lampert was CEO, he and his hedge fund threw Sears several lifelines as the company continued losing money, closing stores and laying off workers.

"(Creditors) may simply feel, 'We've seen this movie before, and we don't think anything different will happen,' " he said.

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