By JULIE CRESWELL
How a financial wizard took over a giant of American retailing, and presided over its epic decline.
...Seritage Growth Properties is the REIT spinoff of some of the holding company's Sears and Kmart stores. The REIT announced in October 2016 that it was terminating 17 store leases. All of the locations are associated with Kmart locations. It is estimated that as many as 60 Kmart stores will be closed by year end 2016. Also in October 2016, Moody's Investor Services downgraded Sears to speculative grade liquidity rating. The speculative grade liquidity means that Sears is expected to have to rely on external financing and monetization of its alternative assets according to Moody's VP Christina Boni.
In late 2016 and early 2017, some significant steps were taken by Edward Lampert, president, chief executive officer and top shareholder of Sears Holding Corp. Lampert, with personal assets estimated at US$2 billion, is also the founder and manager of the hedge fund ESL Investments Inc. He provided an additional loan of US$500 million to the company and said he would provide letters of credit to Sears for additional amounts, reportedly totaling US$200 million and possibly increasing to a half billion dollars in the future.
Lampert also concluded an arrangement that sold the Craftsman brand to Stanley Black & Decker Inc. for approximately US$900 million. During this period, the company also announced that it would close 150 stores (109 Kmart and 41 Sears outlets), in an attempt to cut its losses after a decline in sales of 12 to 13 percent during the holiday shopping season and the largest quarterly loss since 2013. These steps will buy time for the retailer, but Matt McGinley, an analyst at Evercore ISI, was quoted by Bloomberg Markets as being bearish. "In the long run, the cash isn't likely to change the company's course. ... I don't think there is any viable path to any sort of profitability."
In February 2017, Sears announced a restructuring plan that is hoped to cut costs by US$1 billion via selling more stores, cutting jobs and selling brands. During the second quarter of 2017, 42 Sears stores in 40 states will close. Later on Sears announced that it will close an additional 12 stores. In July 2017, Sears announced it would close another 43 stores (8 Sears and 35 Kmart stores). Those closures are in addition to the previously announced closures.
The Incredible Shrinking Sears
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