Sears Chairman Eddie Lampert has come through with an 11th hour takeover bid for the bankrupt retailer, according to Reuters, preventing what would have been an immediate liquidation of the iconic company.
Lampert has offered a roughly $4.6 billion package backed by existing lenders Bank of America and Citigroup, along with new participant Royal Bank of Canada – which came together to provide a $950 million asset-backed loan and a $350 million revolving line of credit to back Lampert’s bid.
Lampert’s bid would preserve about 425 stores that Sears has yet to close, and secure the jobs of 50,000 workers out of the 68,000 employed by the retailer, the sources said.
Some of Lampert’s bid relies on $1.8 billion of Sears debt that his hedge fund ESL Investments Inc already holds and Lampert plans to forgive to back his offer, the sources said. The bid also has about $400 million in financing from non-bank lenders, according to the sources.
It is possible that Lampert’s bid for Sears will be rejected or otherwise fall through, the sources cautioned, asking not to be identified because the matter is confidential. –Reuters
While the bid could eventually prevent liquidation, there are hurdles: Sears’ advisors have until Jan. 4 to decide whether ESL is a “qualified bidder.” Only then, could ESL take part in an auction against liquidation bids on Jan. 14. They will weigh the value of Lampert’s bid against offers to liquidate the company.
If the bid is not accepted – which is a potential risk – or falls through without another buyer, Sears would be liquidated, putting around 68,000 people out of work.
The 125-year-old store filed for bankruptcy on October 15, after which it announced the closure of nearly 200 unprofitable locations. On Friday it added 80 more stores to that list.
The reason why Lampert’s offer may not be the panacea some expect is that earlier this month unsecured Sears creditors declared that they will object to a credit bid (more below), with some asserting that there may be legal claims against the company over transactions which Lampert oversaw, such as Sears’ spinoff of Lands’ End as well as various transactions with Seritage Growth Properties, going so far as to accuse Lampert of funneling $2.6 billion out of the company.
Furthermore, as CNBC adds, the terms or structure of Lampert’s bid could not immediately be determined. If it is similar to the $4.6 billion proposal Lampert outlined earlier this month, it is likely to face push-back from the company’s unsecured creditors. As part of the initial bid, which regulators required Lampert to make public, financing would in part stem from $1.8 billion in debt that Lampert would forgive through a so-called “credit bid.”
Previously the nation’s largest retailer, Sears touted itself as the first “everything store,” carrying everything from jewelry to clothing to pre-fabricated homes – and amassing a tremendous commercial real estate portfolio in the process.
The only other bids received have been from suitors who want various segments of the company and liquidators who want to run going-out-of-business sales according to Reuters.