Sears crawls out of bankruptcy in tatters

Retailer had nearly 700 stores four years ago, now down to 15

Former Sears chairman Eddie Lampert (Getty)
Former Sears chairman Eddie Lampert (Getty)

Sears has emerged from bankruptcy after four years, but the company Americans relied on for decades is essentially dead.

Its reorganization plan took effect at the end of last month, ending a process that dragged on for four years, Fox Business reported. Next up for the former retail behemoth is a liquidation of its remaining assets.

There ain’t much.

Sears, a pioneer of mail-order catalogs and department stores alike, entered bankruptcy with 687 stores. It’s down to 15 in the United States and Puerto Rico. The end is likely nigh for them, too, as the faded brand can no longer compete for today’s consumers.

Sears’ decline was long and painful. Eddie Lampert led a purchase of the company in 2005 for $11 billion when he was chairman of Kmart Holding. Sears Holdings sold the stores in 2019 to ESL Investments, a company affiliated with Lampert, for $5.2 billion.

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

Read more

The combined company, known as Transformco, was essentially an attempt to squeeze whatever value remained from its holdings, as the retail operation was road kill in a world dominated by the likes of Walmart and Amazon. Sears filed for bankruptcy in October 2018 after revenues had dropped 54 percent over five years.

Seritage Growth Properties, the real estate investment trust spun out of Sears, looked for ways to turn the remaining assets into a viable business or sell them. It retained Barclays to find a buyer, but received not a single offer.

Last month, a majority of Seritage shareholders approved a plan to sell all of the REIT’s assets. In the summer, the company’s board recommended Seritage liquidate its properties and return proceeds to shareholders.

Lampert stepped down as Seritgage’s chairman earlier this year.

— Holden Walter-Warner