By Anne D’Innocenzio / Associated Press
NEW YORK — Sears has confirmed that largest shareholder and Chairman Eddie Lampert’s hedge fund has won tentative approval for a $5.2 billion plan to buy 425 stores and the rest of its assets.
The move, announced Thursday, preserves 45,000 jobs and is subject to court approval Feb. 1. Unsecured creditors will have the opportunity to object before then.
The deal is expected to then close Feb. 8.
The agreement follows marathon negotiations in an auction that started early Monday as Lampert was fending off demands from unsecured creditors, who were pushing for liquidation.
Lampert was the only one to put forth a proposal through an affiliate of ESL to rescue the floundering company in its entirety. He had sweetened his bid multiple times.
“At every stage in this process, ESL has worked tirelessly to help Sears re-emerge from bankruptcy, including by enhancing our offer several times, because we believe Sears has a future as a profitable company that can succeed in today’s competitive retail landscape,” said ESL in a statement.
Still, many experts believe a smaller version of the retailer will not be viable as it faces increasing competition from the likes of Amazon and Walmart.
Sears’ Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based corporate parent, which also owns Kmart, had 687 stores and 68,000 employees at the time of its bankruptcy filing in mid-October. At its peak in 2012, its stores numbered 4,000.