What You Need to Know About Sears Bankruptcy Filing

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

Sears, once the largest retailer in the world, is closing hundreds of stores and reportedly planning to file for bankruptcy. Here's how it got there.

(This is in addition to the previously announced closure of 46 unprofitable stores by November 2018.) Sears, which has shuttered thousands of locations during the past several years, now operates a total of about 700 Sears and Kmart stores.

Sears shares were trading down 14 percent in pre-market trading on Monday at 35 cents, giving the company a market capitalization of just $35 million.

One of the biggest prizes could be appliances, a category where Sears was still a major player and was on pace to generate $3.5 billion in sales this year, according to UBS Securities.

In September, Lampert proposed that Sears restructure its finances without filing bankruptcy.

There will be no immediate impact to merchandise pricing (stores are not now liquidating). Lampert learned long ago that he could make money from from selling off some of the company's signature brands, like Craftsman tools and Lands End.

Sears is the place where America shopped for more than a century, but not no more.

"Over the last several years, we have worked hard to transform our business and unlock the value of our assets", said Edward S. Lampert, Chairman of Sears Holdings.

Sears, which started as a mail order catalog in the 1880s, has been on a slow march toward extinction as it lagged far behind its peers and incurred massive losses over the years.

But despite efforts to revive it, the company has not turned a profit since 2011.

Sears said it will sell assets and begin closing 142 unprofitable stores by year-end with the aim of reorganizing around a smaller platform of around 700 of its best stores.

The company already has commitments for US$300 million of debtor-in-possession financing from its senior secured asset-based revolving lenders, according to the statement, and it's negotiating a US$300 million subordinated DIP financing with Lampert's hedge fund, ESL Investments Inc.

But they will need to do better than a year ago.

"The problem in Sears case is that it is a poor retailer", he wrote.

In an earlier attempt to avoid bankruptcy, Sears previous year sold its Craftsman tool brand to power tool maker Stanley Black & Decker for $900 million. It has lost $11.7 billion since 2010, its last profitable year. Lampert bought Sears in 2004 and merged it with Kmart, in which he had a controlling stake, the next year. We were treated decently, paid on time, and got reasonable discounts on good merchandise. While losing the retail battle with Walmart, Home Depot and others, it was flanked on another side by Amazon's rapidly growing e-commerce business. But the onset of discounters like Walmart created challenges for Sears that have only grown.

Store shelves have been left bare as many vendors have demanded more stringent payment terms, says Mark Cohen, a professor of retailing at Columbia University and a former Sears executive.

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