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Sears' biggest holder bids $4.6B for rest of chain

Eddie Lampert and his ESL Holdings hedge fund

Eddie Lampert and his ESL Holdings hedge fund are offering to buy the rest of Sears for up to $4.6 billion in cash and stock. The Sears chairman and ESL own just under half of the Hoffman Estates, Illinois, company, according to FactSet. Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October. Photo Credit: AP/Seth Wenig

Eddie Lampert and his ESL Holdings hedge fund are offering to buy the rest of Sears for up to $4.6 billion in cash and stock.

The Sears chairman and ESL own just under half of the Hoffman Estates, Illinois, company, according to FactSet. Sears Holdings Corp. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October, weighed down by years of declining sales and massive debt.

ESL Holdings said in a regulatory filing Thursday that its nonbinding offer for roughly 500 remaining Sears and Kmart stores would keep about 50,000 employees working. The offer is subject to due diligence and ESL's ability to get financing, among other things.

"ESL believes that a future for Sears as a going concern is the only way to preserve tens of thousands of jobs and bring continued economic benefits to the many communities across the United States that are touched by Sears and Kmart stores," the firm said in a prepared statement.

When it filed for bankruptcy Oct. 15, Sears Holdings said it would be closing 142 stores, including a Sears in Garden City, near the end of this year.

But the retailer has been announcing other rounds of Kmart and Sears closings throughout this year:

•    In January, Sears Holdings said it would close 103 stores, with most shutting their doors by April, including a Sears in Hicksville.

•    In May, the company announced that a Kmart in West Babylon would be among 63 unprofitable stores that would be closed in September.

•    In August, the company said a Kmart in Riverhead and a Sears in New Hyde Park would be among 46 unprofitable stores closing in November.

•    In November, Sears Holdings said it would be closing 40 more stores in February, including a Kmart in Huntington, as part of its restructuring under bankruptcy.

At this point, Long Island has three remaining Sears stores — in Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove, Sunrise Mall in Massapequa and Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream — and three Kmarts — in Bridgehampton, Farmingville and Bohemia. There are also two Sears Auto Centers, in Valley Stream and Massapequa. 

As recently as 2012 the company operated 4,000 Sears and Kmart stores. Including the closings after the bankruptcy filing, Sears would have just over 500 functioning locations left.

The company still employs about 68,000 people.  — With Tory N. Parrish 

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