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Why Sears Had to Borrow Another $300 Million From Its CEO

Here comes Eddie Lampert to Sears Holdings’ (SHLD) rescue again.

The hedge fund manager will provide additional debt financing of $300 million to the beleaguered retail company he now heads and created in 2005 by combining Sears department stores and Kmart.

News of the latest helping hand from Lampert, who controls just under half of Sears’ shares, comes amid yet another awful quarter: Comparable sales in the second quarter fell 3.3% at Kmart and 7% at Sears. The company blamed the poor showing on “a challenging competitive environment,” which is difficult to accept given how much better rivals Walmart (WMT) and J.C. Penney (JCP) fared. Revenue at Sears Holdings dropped 8.8% to $5.66 billion in the quarter ended July 30.

The new $300 million financing is only the latest support Lampert has provided his troubled retail empire. Lampert’s hedge fund, ESL Investments, had provided half of the initial $250 million tranche of a recent $500 million loan to fund the transformation Sears claims will make it a modern retailer. The latest round also allows Sears to take an additional $200 million of debt from other investors.


In the first half of the current fiscal year, Sears has lost $866 million, adding to the $8 billion it lost between 2010 and 2015. In February, Sears Holdings reported its 11th straight year of comparable sales declines, despite closing hundreds of weak stores over the years.

For years Lampert has claimed that his transformation plan (which he’s repeatedly asked investors to give time to take hold) would make Sears a more profitable retailer, needing fewer and smaller locations that focus on its most loyal shoppers. But the results have not materialized.


Sears and Kmart have closed hundreds of stores in the last few years (including 78 earlier in 2016) and the company even had to dispel reports last month that it was getting ready to shut down the Kmart brand.

The sales declines, among the deepest of any major retailer in recent years, have led to such a cash hemorrhage that Sears has sold off key assets like Lands’ End and its stake in Sears Canada, and spun off of its best stores into a real estate vehicle.

In May, with fewer and fewer assets to unload, Sears said it was looking for ways to squeeze much-needed money out of its most attractive remaining assets: its Kenmore, Craftsman, and DieHard appliance and tool brands. Sears said on Thursday it had “received interest” for Sears Home Services business as well as Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard.

Some skeptics are calling Sears’ efforts the “slowest liquidation sale” in retail history. With no abatement in declines, it’s hard to counter that claim.