Sears chairman’s hedge fund put in bid to buy remaining stores, including Springfield location

Sears’ chairman and former CEO Eddie Lampert has submitted a bid to buy the remaining Sears locations, including one in Springfield.

The $4.6 billion proposal submitted Thursday by Lampert’s hedge fund ESL Investments could save 505 stores Sears Holdings leadership said it hoped a bidder would keep open. The Upper Valley Mall store is the only store in the region expected to remain open.

The deal would include Sears, its real estate and major brands such as Kenmore and Sears Auto Center and could save more than 50,000 jobs, according to a letter from the hedge fund. But the purchase still needs to be approved by creditors and beat bids that could come from liquidators.

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“ESL believes that a future for Sears as a going concern is the only way to preserve tens of thousands of jobs and bring continued economic benefits to the many communities across the United States that are touched by Sears and Kmart stores,” the letter said.

But Sears likely wants to keep the Springfield store because it owns the space and nearly 13 acres at the Upper Valley Mall, said German Twp. planning and zoning director George Degenhart last month.

“Some of the stores that they closed probably drive more traffic than we do,” Degenhart said. “This is a property management decision, not a retail decision.”

Lampert has made several moves to save Sears from its decade-long decline. The most recent attempt to buy the retailer that filed for bankruptcy in October comes at a cost of $950 million in cash, a credit bid of $1.8 billion and several other cash deals.

“Sears is an iconic fixture in American retail and we continue to believe in the company’s immense potential to evolve and operate profitably as a going concern with a new capitalization and organizational structure,” ESL said.

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If the bid is approved ESL and its partners plan to operate the “right-sized network” of large and small retail stores along with digital initiatives to help Sears reach potential.

If more than one bid is received, the company will go up for auction in mid-January.

“Sears like many of those kind of chain stores are facing increased competition from online retailers and a lot of brick and mortar stores are having a hard time making it,” said Bill Even, economics professor at Miami University. “The things that people used to get at Sears they can get fairly easily online.”

The Dayton Mall store has already closed and the Fairfield Commons Mall and Piqua stores will close Sunday and in February respectively.


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