Markets

Sears agrees to consider revised Lampert bid

Sears agrees to consider revised Lampert bid

Lampert's bid proposed forgiving US$1.3 billion of debt he holds in exchange for ownership of the reconstituted Sears, a bankruptcy manoeuvre known as a credit bid.

But the deal announced Tuesday afternoon at least gives the company a chance of surviving, which appeared to be slipping way heading into the hearing.

Lampert had put forward a $4.4 billion bid to save Sears and 50,000 jobs by buying it out of bankruptcy through his hedge fund ESL Investments.

US Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain in the Southern District of NY, who is presiding over the case, could decide to give Lampert more time to improve his bid, the Reuters sources said, adding that a bankruptcy auction for Sears' assets is not due until January 14. Drain said other parties could submit new or improved bids, and Sears' financial advisers would let them know if they would be considered at the auction.

The creditors have argued that forgiveness of his debt should not be accepted as part of the bid, because Lampert loaned Sears the money when he was CEO.

The 11th hour negotiation is yet another twist in the rocky journey of Sears, whose fate has been hanging in the wind, particularly since it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy October 15.

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The decision was predicated on the condition that Lampert's hedge fund provide a $121 million deposit by Wednesday, as the former CEO makes a last-ditch effort to save the company.

The deal was reached after days of "virtually round-the-clock negotiations", Sears attorney Ray Schrock told the court.

Sources told Reuters the company's board will ask a bankruptcy judge on Tuesday for permission to liquidate, closing all of its hundreds of remaining stores and selling off all its assets across the country.

In general, bankruptcy courts would rather not liquidate a company if there's a chance to keep it alive and its workers employed, said David Stowell, professor of finance at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.

The bankruptcy judge overseeing the case said that means Lampert's use of a credit bid has not been pre-approved.

But the fact that Sears has an offer that seeks to rescue it doesn't guarantee it will escape liquidation.


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