Sears Chairman Eddie Lampert may be celebrating his early Wednesday morning win on reaching a $5.2 billion deal to acquire the bankrupt retailer, but his employees—past and present—aren’t too happy about it.
"Eddie Lampert didn't save Sears, he ran it into the ground. No one thinks their job is safe under his leadership," Lily Wang, deputy director of United for Respect's Rise Up Retail said in a statement to FOX Business.
Wang, who is currently working with Sears employees and their families, is calling for more transparency from the billionaire and his hedge fund, ESL Investments on his plans to help current and ex-employees, who lost their jobs over the last few years.
“Ten of thousands of laid off employees are doubling down on their demand for Lampert to honor his commitment to pay severance and to also set up a hardship fund to provide immediate support to all families impacted by the bankruptcy,” the group said in a release on Wednesday.
The non-profit retail community group notes that since Lampert took control of Sears in 2005, he has repeatedly sold off Sears’ most profitable assets to corporations that he controls and “has major stakes in,” earning him more than $1 billion in the process.
“Under Lampert’s control, Sears has shelled out $6 billion in stock buybacks to pay out to investors and shareholders instead of paying down its debt or investing in its store infrastructure and the workforce,” the group added.
However, Lampert’s $5.2 billion bid, which was approved on Wednesday by an independent board of advisers, does include more than $40 million in severance pay for employees.
Still, many workers believe there is no guarantee they will actually get a piece of that amount.
On Thursday, both Sears and Lampert's hedge fund ESL Investment confirmed that a deal was reached.
"ESL Investments, Inc. was selected as the winning bidder in the Company's auction," Sears announced in a release, noting that the offer is subject to bankruptcy court approval, which is currently slated for Feb. 1, 2019.
The approval, however comes after weeks of back and forth between Sears and ESL whose first bid of $4.4 billion was rejected amid questions of Lampert’s ability to fully fund the bid, which prompted a $120 million downpayment.
Lampert also had to boost his bid by assuming more liabilities from the 126-year-old retailer, which was forced into bankruptcy in October.
What’s more, many of Sears’ unsecured creditors, including landlords and suppliers, are against the deal, claiming it only benefits Lampert and his hedge fund. Many of them are still pushing for the deal to be rejected.
Still, Lampert’s offer is the only option that could save up to 45,000 jobs and keep Sears’ brand and stores alive.
This story was updated on Jan 17.