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Sears CEO gives rare interview: ‘We’re fighting to survive’

The leader of Sears Holding Corp. said the company is “fighting to survive.”

Eddie Lampert, CEO and chairman of Sears Holding Corp., gave a rare interview to Vanity Fair — the first in-depth sit down with the leader in about 15 years. Lampert, who was interviewed in his home in Florida, talked about the company’s future and his past business decisions.

Here’s what we learned:

Lampert is a shy leader who primarily runs his business from Florida or via teleconference from various locations. “There are cultures where people work from home, and they still get things done,” he told Vanity Fair. “The ability to trust people, the ability to empower people, that’s the model.”

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It was his decision to merge Kmart and Sears. In 2003, Lampert said the operating profit was around $400 million and the next year it was $900 million. In 2005, he decided that Kmart should buy Sears. “Kmart was a turnaround,” he says. “Putting Kmart and Sears together was a transformation.”

Current financial situation “We’re fighting to survive — that’s pretty clear,” Lampert told Vanity Fair. “I believe in what’s possible, and we’re doing things that are necessary to keep the company going …. It’s definitely not just humbled me, but it’s expanded my awareness of real issues that exist in our society…. I feel like I can make a contribution by being involved, O.K.?”

Not giving up “If I didn’t believe that this company could be transformed still—the window is definitely shrinking—but if I didn’t believe that, I would try to take a different path. But I don’t know what that path exactly would be. It’s not a question of giving up or not giving up,” he said.

Read the full Vanity Fair interview here.

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