Sears May Be Bought Out In Potential Debt Swap Deal

Sears store sign with the A burned out
Mike Kalasnik / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Cyrus Capital Partners LP and a hedge fund run by Sears Chairman Eddie Lampert plan to make a takeover bid to save the bankrupt Sears Holdings Corp chain of stores. On Wednesday, Reuters reported that the investors could potentially offer to swap debt they possess in order to obtain ownership of the stores. A bankruptcy court would have to approve the bid, but it would give the store a chance to recover from its current predicament.

The 125-year-old retailer entered bankruptcy court on October 11 with a Chapter 11 filing. It is accepting bids for its 505 Sears and Kmart stores through next week, so an offer from Lampert’s hedge fund and Cyrus Capital Partners wouldn’t be automatically accepted. Other offers are still possible, including one that could result in the chain being liquidated.

Sears has been struggling for the past few years, but particularly since its bankruptcy filing, taking loans to keep stores running through the lucrative holiday season. On Tuesday, the company secured $350 in bankruptcy financing to keep doors open through the end of the year.

“I’m optimistic and bullish that we’re going to win the holiday, and that’s going to put wind in our sails to come out of Chapter 11,” Chief Brand Officer Peter Boutros said.

However, the company saw smaller crowds than normal during the Black Friday shopping rush, with some stores reporting not only fewer shoppers, but fewer employees as well.

“This place looks like a ghost town. It was a waste to even come out. They’re not really changing the prices,” said shopper Brandon Warkenthin in New York.

Lampert has fought to keep the company running, with lifelines and financial engineering intended to keep the retailer afloat.

“We need to show material progress over the next few months to establish to our senior lenders that a reorganization of the company is realistic and to avoid a shutdown and liquidation,” he told employees after the company filed for bankruptcy.

Sears has recently taken heat after filing with the bankruptcy court to pay large bonuses to “key” executives while putting severance packages for laid-off employees on the line.

“It hit me hard. I was already struggling as it was,” an employee said.

“They say we can’t get our severance because there’s no money, but they’re getting bonuses? It’s like a slap in the face.”

The retailer, which was founded in 1893 by Richard Warren Sears and Alvah Curtis Roebuck, has not turned a profit in nearly a decade. Neither Cyrus Capital Partners nor Eddie Lampert’s hedge fund has commented on a potential offer.