Sears files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

Sears, once the largest retailer in the world, is closing hundreds of stores and reportedly planning to file for bankruptcy. Here's how it got there.

The company has 90,000 employees and in its heyday owned over three thousand stores.

Sears, which started as a mail order catalog in the 1880s, has been on a slow march toward extinction as it lagged far behind its peers and incurred massive losses over the years.

The company listed $6.9bn in assets and $11.3bn in liabilities in documents filed in the US Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of NY.

The talks with lenders envision a restructuring using the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process, with Sears filing on Sunday at the earliest, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing confidential matters. Such a plan could potentially keep a slimmer Sears alive as a going concern, the sources said. The Wall Street Journal reported that Lampert, who will step down as CEO but remain chairman, believes he can restructure the company around the 300 stores that are profitable.

Sears had been drowning in debt and reportedly could not afford a $134 million repayment that had been due on Monday. Strong sales in the upcoming holiday season will be key in determining that. The bankruptcy court must greenlight this financing.

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"While we have made progress, the plan has yet to deliver the results we have desired, and addressing the company's immediate liquidity needs has impacted our efforts to become a profitable and more competitive retailer".

Sears said it will sell assets and begin closing 142 unprofitable stores by year-end with the aim of reorganizing around a smaller platform of around 700 of its best stores. Plus, in bankruptcy proceedings, the largest creditors become the owners of the new entity.

In a March 2017 government filing, Sears said there was "substantial doubt" that it would be able to keep its doors open - but insisted its turnaround efforts would mitigate that risk.

A spokeswoman for the mall's parent company, Washington Prime Group Inc., on Friday said the mall is in "active negotiations to transform" the space. In August, it closed 13 Kmart stores and 33 Sears locations, including the Oakland Mall and Jackson Crossing stores.

But it has struggled to reinvent itself in the face of online competition from companies such as Amazon.com Inc, as well as other brick-and-mortar retailers, including Walmart Inc.

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At various times, Sears brands have included Allstate Insurance, Coldwell Banker real estate and Discover Card. The holding company has closed almost 3,000 Sears and K-Mart locations over the past decade and are now down to fewer than 1,000 retail locations.

Benton Harbor-based Whirlpool Corp.is Sears' seventh-largest creditor, owed more than $23 million.

"When you go into a bankruptcy, you're living in a fish bowl and every transaction will be looked at and examined", said Corali Lopez-Castro, Managing Partner at law firm Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton.

Whirlpool, which had started in business more than a century ago selling its appliances at Sears, pulled its various brands out of Sears and Kmart stores past year.

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