Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Why does Eddie Lampert want to keep Sears alive?

A related article to one on CNN.COM, "Sears gets out of bankruptcy alive," (https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/07/investing/sears-decision/index.html) asks the question, "Why does Eddie Lampert want to keep Sears Alive?" (https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/28/business/why-lampert-wants-sears/index.html)

Lampert insists he believes Sears can still be a viable retailer, after its relevance and market value have shrunk from the top of the retail heap to nearly nil. Yet, he gives no plan as to what is going to change to reverse the death spiral that Sears is now on. He claims, ""for one simple reason -- We believe in the potential to create a successful, multi-faceted, 21st century company that can benefit from the changes in today's retail environment."  How? Merchandising? Market Positioning? A Strategy? None of the above are explained.

The author of the article points out several key points that I believe lead to the true answer to the question:
1.   But if Lampert's $5.2 billion bid to rescue Sears fails -- as its creditors want -- he has a secondary bid ready to go. Under the alternate plan, Lampert would pay $1.8 billion for just the stores.”
2.  Lampert managed the company since 2005 as if it were a slow-motion liquidation, said Philip Emma, analyst with Debtwire and an expert in retail bankruptcies. He steadily closed hundreds of stores and the spun off assets, such as Land's End and Craftsman tools.Keeping Sears open means Lampert could continue that strategy.”
3.  Over the years Lampert has loaned the company $2.4 billion, most of it backed by hard assets such as real estate.
4.   That debt, and the new cash make up just more than half of the $5.2 billion bid price. The remaining $2 billion comes from promise that Sears will pay off some of its liabilities and debts. So if the bid is successful, Lampert will again get control of the company, one that he says is worth $5.2 billion, by putting up only a fraction of that amount in cash.”

Real Estate. That is what the author of the article is clearly implying is the reason. Looks like that to me too.

Smart deal. A clever long-term plan. But a tragedy for all the families of those who worked for Sears loyally over the years, and for the customers that made Sears an important part of their lives for more than 100 years.

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