Sears files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection

Sears CEO Eddie Lampert rode the worst trade of his life all the way down

Sears CEO Eddie Lampert rode the worst trade of his life all the way down

Sears plans to close about 150 of its 700 stores in malls across the United States as soon as it files for bankruptcy, Reuters reported on Friday.

By the time Sears limped into bankruptcy on Monday, the once-great company was shriveled and sickly.

The company also announced it would close 142 unprofitable stores near the end of the year, in addition to the 46 stores it had already identified.

But the company has not turned a profit since 2011, and critics say Lampert let the stores deteriorate over the years, even as he bought the company's stock and lent it money.

Sears is far from the only brick-and-mortar outlet to fall by the wayside as more consumers do the bulk of their shopping online. The company later became Sears, Roebuck and Co and began selling everything from homes to hardware, becoming the largest retailer in the country until Walmart replaced it in 1990. The final straw was a $134 million debt payment due Monday that it could not afford. Since 2012, losses have topped US$10 billion.

And reports are swirling that the company is talking to advisers and banks in preparation for a bankruptcy filing.

Lampert, who is also the company's largest shareholder and lender, is hoping the deal, combined with a programme of divestments, will give Sears a fighting chance to escape liquidation ahead of the key holiday shopping season, the sources said. Founded in 1892, it was a USA retail juggernaut until the 1990s, when it started facing stiff competition from Walmart, Target and other more agile competitors.

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The company's lenders are encouraging Sears to shut down and liquidate, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. It's last profitable year was 2010, and Lampert has since stripped off and sold much of its land holdings and iconic brands like Craftsman.

"There was a time when Sears was the Amazon of its day". The only buyer it could find was Lampert, who offered $400 million for Kenmore through his hedge fund. The company shuttered more than 2,600 stores over the past 13 years.

Sears said it has received a $300 million financing package to fund its operations during the bankruptcy proceedings and was negotiating an additional $300 million.

If Sears does file for bankruptcy, it could try to stay in business, using the court process to shed debt and unaffordable leases. It is unclear how the closures would impact Sears' nearly 70,000 employees.

With a history that stretches back to 1886, the company was a pioneer of departmental stores that sold all things to all people and by the mid-twentieth century had built a vast empire that stretched across North America. Sears moved to Chicago in 1887, and he hired watchmaker Alvah Roebuck as his partner.

The Sears catalog was the way many Americans first started to buy mass produced goods.

But, in the past, after these sales Sears has continued to pay a portion of the insurance and property taxes on its former stores, according to Mark Cohen, a former Sears Canada executive and the current director of retail studies at Columbia Business School. Sears was widely considered to be an early innovator of the shopping landscape. The company had 89,000 employees as of February.

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