A bankruptcy judge has blessed a $5.2 billion plan by Sears chairman and biggest shareholder Eddie Lampert to buy the struggling department store chain.
Lampert’s bid, through his ESL hedge fund, overcame opposition from a group of creditors, including mall owners and suppliers, that tried to block the sale and pushed hard for liquidation. Lampert has said the deal will allow Sears to preserve hundreds of stores and 45,000 jobs.
Even with this latest reprieve, Sears’ long-term survival remains an open question. Lampert, who was the retailer’s CEO until the bankruptcy filing, hasn’t outlined plans for transforming Sears, while the company continues to face cutthroat competition from Amazon, Target and Walmart.
Lampert was heavily criticized during the process for his role in Sears’ demise.
“Lampert … stripped Sears of key assets and spent $6 billion on stock buybacks, while destroying 250,000 jobs and enriching himself and his investors in the process,” United For Respect, a nonprofit representing retail workers, said in a statement. Sears employees represented by the group are calling for a financial hardship fund for laid-off workers and to give employees a seat on Sears’ boar.
Lampert steered Sears into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October. The company’s corporate parent, which also owns Kmart, had 687 stores and 68,000 employees at the time of the filing.