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Sears' Eddie Lampert gets more time for last-ditch rescue bid, reports say

The fall of Sears
The fall of Sears 08:46

Flailing Sears may get another chance to stick around. The 126-year-old retailer on Tuesday was set to ask a bankruptcy court's permission to proceed with a planned liquidation, but Chairman Eddie Lampert has been granted more time to advance his $4.4 billion takeover bid, according to multiple media reports.

Sears Holdings filed for bankruptcy protection last October. The retailer reportedly planned to tell the court Tuesday it had rejected Lampert's offer and ask for approval to proceed with a liquidation that would likely shutter hundreds of Sears and Kmart stores and potentially put more than 50,000 people out of work.

Lambert, however, protested Sears' plan, stressing the millions of dollars in fees paid to Sears' bankruptcy advisers, according to CNBC, which cited a person familiar with the matter. Lampert's hedge fund, ESL Investments, now has until 4 p.m. Wednesday to pay a $120 million deposit on his offer, the network reported.

How Sears went from innovation to bankruptcy 01:44

An auction to sell Sears Holdings' remaining assets is scheduled for Jan. 14, and Lampert is expected to participate. 

Sears declined comment Tuesday in an email to CBS MoneyWatch. 

The company in late December said it would close 80 Sears and Kmart locations in late March, adding to the previously announced shutdown of 40 unprofitable stores next month. The once-dominant retailer has about 500 stores still in operation.

Tuesday's court hearing in the Southern District of New York came a day after the retailer took to social media to dispel the notion it was not longer in the running, saying in a tweet: "We may be slowing down, but we are not out of the race just yet."

In making his bid for what remains of Sears, former CEO and billionaire investor Lampert stipulated any deal would put him and ESL ahead of other creditors down the line, and would be financed with more debt than cash. 

"ESL is the largest creditor of Sears, and their offer includes a credit bid of $1.8 billion of the debt they hold -- that's something that might be problematic going forward," Sarah Foss, a legal analyst at Debtwire told CBS MoneyWatch in December.

The demise of the Big Store 
Lampert in 2002 bought Kmart debt as the discount retailer entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and at the same time purchased Sears shares. In 2004, Kmart said it would acquire Sears for $11 billion. By 2016 the combined retail venture Sears Holdings was locked in a downward spiral of falling revenue and rising debt, with customers defecting from stores considered outdated and stocked with unappealing merchandise.  

Lampert touted his merger of Kmart and Sears as laying the groundwork for their revival, a scenario that did not work out, and had the hedge fund manager relinquishing his role as CEO just after Sears filed for bankruptcy protection last fall. Lampert, who retains the title of chairman, and his ESL own just under half of the Hoffman Estates, Illinois, company, according to FactSet.

While current Sears shareholders have lost almost all their investment and creditors that include the U.S. government are owed $11 billion, Lampert has pocketed nearly $1.4 billion to date from his investment in the retailer, calculated Institutional Investor in a recent story

In a regulatory filing, Sears announced the departure of one of its top executives. Perry Dean Schwartz resigned as president of the company's hardlines division effective on Friday.

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