Sears Estate Sues Eddie Lampert, Claiming Illegal Transfer of Assets

Sears accuses Eddie Lampert of looting the company

Sears accuses Eddie Lampert of looting the company

Sears Holdings Corp. has filed a blockbuster federal lawsuit that essentially claims former CEO Eddie Lampert drove the company into bankruptcy, by siphoning off the company's assets and preventing it from being able to pay off debts.

The lawsuit lays outs its charge in its introduction.

It followed the billionaire's $5.2 billion purchase in February of most Sears assets, including the DieHard and Kenmore brands, after a bankruptcy auction.

The lawsuit claims that Lampert caused more than $2 billion of assets to be transferred to him and other shareholders that were beyond the reach of Sears creditors. Sears Holdings alleges they looted the retailer of more than $2 billion in assets through five fraudulent transactions.

Mnuchin, a college roommate of Lampert's at Yale University, had been a director at Sears and ESL, and previously worked with Lampert at Goldman Sachs.

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Other defendants include Bruce Berkowitz and his Fairholme Capital Management, which had been a large Sears shareholder, and Seritage Growth Properties, which housed 266 of Sears' more profitable stores after being spun off.

ESL said in a statement that it "vigorously disputes" the lawsuit. It alleges that the spinoff was structured to benefit shareholders like Lampert and left Sears stuck with hundreds of millions of dollars in rent and fees from the stores they attempted to re-lease, due to a deliberate undervaluing of the real estate in question. But Sears Holdings, which filed the suit, charges Lampert in effect "gave away the store" in deals that failed to realize the full value of the assets he was selling.

Sears, which operates Sears and Kmart, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October, amid years of massive losses and sales drops. The complaint, filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York Wednesday, seeks to recover the property that was allegedly fraudulently transferred.

"All transactions were done in good faith, on fair terms, beneficial to all Sears stakeholders and approved by the Sears Board of Directors, made up of a majority of independent directors, as well as the company's Related Party Transactions Committee, which was itself comprised of independent directors and advised by separate independent financial and legal advisors, " ESL said. The main bankruptcy case is In re Sears Holdings Corp in the same court, No. 18-bk-23538.

Lampert established Sears Holdings by merging Sears, Roebuck & Co and Kmart Holdings Corporation in 2006.

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