Sears has reached a final hour deal to stay in business

End may be near for iconic retailers Sears Kmart

CCN previously reported that Sears was on life support heading into the New Year, with a bid from Lampert and ESL being the last thing standing between the 20th-century icon and liquidation.

A bankruptcy judge is giving Sears Chairman Eddie Lampert another chance to buy the department store chain out of bankruptcy and save roughly 55,000 jobs.

Lampert submitted the bid just before the December 28 deadline set by a bankruptcy court, prompting the company's advisers to assess if he was a "qualified bidder" and the deal was enough to keep the company afloat. According to lawyers close to the matter, one of the main sticking points was that the $4.4 billion bid, which included $1.3 billion in financing from three financial institutions, didn't include cash.

Lampert's ESL Investments said late last month it was prepared to pay $4.4 billion for numerous retailer's remaining assets, including about 425 Sears and Kmart stores.

The final deal also requires approval from US Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Drain. "A bankruptcy auction for Sears' assets is not due until January 14".

Image: Sears has been steadily shutting stores, earmarking 262 shops for closure by February this year.

Store closings continued throughout 2017 and 2018, with Sears Holdings declaring bankruptcy in mid-October 2018.

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The deal was reached after days of "virtually round-the-clock negotiations", Sears attorney Ray Schrock told the court.

The creditors have argued that forgiveness of his debt should not be accepted as part of the bid, because Lampert loaned Sears the money when he was CEO.

Under the new terms, Lampert must come up with a $120 million cash payment by Wednesday afternoon, as a down payment.

ESL's ability to finance its purchase by effectively forgiving the retailer's debt will be also be considered at the bankruptcy auction, Schrock said.

"I remember at the beginning of summer, we'd start flipping through the catalog, having to get the penny loafers of the Mary Janes, the black and white shoes", she said.

Stowell, speaking shortly before the Tuesday hearing, said he wouldn't be surprised to see Lampert sweeten his offer before the bankruptcy auction. Without an agreement, Sears faced the possibility of liquidation.

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