Sears at WestShore Plaza closing in January

Fredrick Soto
December 30, 2018

The Sears Auto Center will close in January.

Lampert submitted the $4.4 billion offer Friday through Transform Holdco, an affiliate of his hedge fund, ESL Investments, just before a 4 p.m. deadline Friday, CNBC first reported.

Sears had almost 700 stores when it filed for bankruptcy-court protection in October. Any bid to purchase it must be approved by a bankruptcy court.

A manager at Wichita's Sears Outlet store said Friday there are no plans to close it, emphasizing that Sears Outlet "is a separate company and. we're profitable as a company". The closings affect two Sears stores in IL; a store in Fairview Heights, near St. Louis, and one in Cherry Valley, near Rockford, are among those to be closed.

Some of Lampert's bid relies on $1.8 billion of Sears debt that ESL already holds and plans to forgive to back the offer, the sources said. And he said he had received $1.3 billion in loan commitments from three leading financial institutions, which he did not identify. That's in addition to the previously shutdown of 40 unprofitable stores expected to be completed in February.

So far a hedge fund controlled by Eddie Lampert, Sears' former CEO and now largest creditor, is the only entity to publicly disclose a plan to bid.

A committee of other creditors, including vendors and landlords, has proposed that Sears instead move forward with plans to shut down the business, closing all the stores and liquidating its inventory and other assets. Most of the 80 stores will shut down by late March.

Lampert bought Sears and merged it with Kmart in 2005 to form Sears Holdings.

Lampert and ESL have been trying to buy the rest of Sears for up to $4.6 billion in cash and stock. Liquidation sales are expected to begin in two weeks.

Reaction to the news of Sears' imminent closure online Friday came with decidedly little shock from Wichitans.

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