Sears' Chairman Still May Come Out on Top as the Retailer's Fate Is Decided

As Sears teeters on the brink of collapse, one man stands at the center of the fight for the future of the iconic retailer.Eddie Lampert plays several often-conflicting roles in what could be the final chapter for the company that began as a mail order watch business 132 years ago. He's been chairman, CEO, landlord, lender, and largest shareholder -- all at the same time. If the company survives, he wins. If it ends up liquidating, he also wins.The fate of Sears -- and its Kmart brand -- is likely to be decided Monday in a law firm conference room high above Manhattan, a block from Central Park. There, those who are owed money by Sears will consider Lampert's last-ditch plan to preserve 425 stores and 50,000 jobs at a bankruptcy auction.Lampert, the only one to put forth a proposal to rescue the floundering company in its entirety, has sweetened his bid for Sears to more than $5 billion and added a $120 million cash deposit through an affiliate of his ESL hedge fund. His original bid of $4.4 billion was rejected by the company's board.He has publicly stated he wants to save Sears, which filed for Chapter 11 protection in October, because he says he believes there's still potential for the company, despite his past and failed efforts to turn it around."For as long as I have been involved with Sears, I have cared deeply about the company, its associates and the people they serve," Lampert said in a statement sent through ESL to The Associated Press. "While the opportunity I saw from the start for Sears to benefit from the disruptive changes in retail and technology has not worked out so far, it is still there to be taken. Every transformation involves perseverance and risk, but I am hopeful that we can execute better and faster on the smaller platform we are bidding on ... There is every reason to fight for its future."But plenty of others think that sheer financial gain is behind his perseverance.  Continue reading...

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