Sears Chairman Eddie Lampert submits proposal to save Sears

The fund run by Sears Chairman Eddie Lampert, ESL Investments, on Thursday submitted its $4.6 billion proposal to help save the company with the purchase of roughly 500 stores.

The retailer, which owns Sears department stores and Kmart, filed for bankruptcy on Oct. 15. In previous court filings, it has stated it was in talks with ESL about a “going concern bid” that could help the company emerge from bankruptcy.

The offer outlined Thursday was comprised of financing tools, including up to $950 million in cash through an asset-based loan facility, a “credit bid” of $1.8 billion and the assumption of roughly $1.1 billion in liabilities. The liabilities assumed include gift cards, points from its Shop Your Way loyalty program and protection agreements from Sears Home Services. Other funds include cash, notes and the rollover of cash collateral.

Should the offer be approved, it would help roughly 50,000 of Sears’ approximately 68,000 employees retain their jobs, ESL said. The new company would reinstate the severance program it had in place prior to Sears’ bankruptcy, ESL also said.

“ESL Investments continues to believe in Sears Holdings’ immense potential to evolve and operate profitably as a going concern with a new capitalization and organizational structure,” ESL wrote in the letter.

But the bid itself will not ensure Sears will stay alive. The company’s unsecured creditors have already said they would prefer the company liquidate rather than sell to ESL, believing it is more valuable in pieces than as an operating company under ESL’s ownership.

Meantime, the use of existing debt to buy a company out of bankruptcy through a so-called credit bid is a controversial practice. Some view credit bids as giving investors who buy a distressed company’s debt at cheap prices an unfair path to ownership.

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