A Federal Judge Grants Sears a Stay of Execution

ESL Investments has one last chance

Sears lives to see one more day. Getty
Headshot of Lisa Lacy

Just when it seemed like Sears was finally going to be put out of its misery, a judge in U.S. bankruptcy court has reportedly given chairman Eddie Lampert’s firm ESL Investments one more day to revise its $4.4 billion bid for what’s left of the long-suffering retailer.

Sears agreed to consider a revised bid from Lampert, along with other bids in an upcoming bankruptcy auction, reports note in a hearing in White Plains, New York, on Tuesday.

Lampert, however, must also pay a $120 million deposit by 4 p.m. on Wednesday—$17.9 million of which is nonrefundable if Sears rejects ESL’s next bid.

A rep for Sears Holdings declined comment. Sears’ attorneys did not respond to requests for comment.

And so the fate of the remaining 425 Sears and Kmart stores—and 50,000 employees—hangs in the balance for another day.

Transform Holdco, a mysterious entity described as an “ESL affiliate,” is also reportedly interested in Sears assets like real estate and intellectual property.

It is not clear what other offers—if any—Sears is entertaining. Other parties are also able to submit new bids now.

Sears filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in October 2018.

Whatever happens now, it’s a sad turn of events for the watch company founded in 1893 that grew to become the Amazon of its day with a mail-order catalog that was an everything store unto itself.

Seventy years ago, Sears revolutionized retail by creating its own credit card for servicemen returning from World War II. It also developed hundreds of American shopping malls and pioneered celebrity merchandise with supermodel Cheryl Tiegs, whose line of clothing and footwear debuted in 1981, and, of course, former Charlie’s Angel Jaclyn Smith, whose collection it acquired from sister brand Kmart.

But, like Toys R Us and Borders before it, the internet struck a crushing blow and Sears may never recover. When Lampert took over in 2013, it had 2,000 locations. By May 2018, 529 Sears (and 365 Kmarts) were left.

@lisalacy lisa.lacy@adweek.com Lisa Lacy is a senior writer at Adweek, where she focuses on retail and the growing reach of Amazon.