Sears back in court as employees tell the judge not to 'be a pawn in Lampert's game'

By BankruptcyFOXBusiness

Sears Chairman Eddie Lampert wins $5.2 billion auction to save company

FBN’s Hillary Vaughn discusses how Sears Chairman Eddie Lampert won the bankruptcy option to save the company from liquidation.

As lawyers for Sears and its creditors battled in court Thursday over whether to accept Eddie Lampert's $5.2 billion offer to aquire the embattled retailer, both former and current employees continued to voice their concerns.

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In a letter sent to U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain, a group of employees for Sears Holdings, through an action group called Rise Up Retail, urged the presiding judge to give them a "seat at the table," saying the transaction is just a scheme for the billionaire and former Sears CEO to “steal” key Sears assets.

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"For the sake of our jobs, our coworkers, our communities, and our families, we want Sears Holdings to succeed, not be a pawn in Lampert’s game," the employees wrote.

"The reality, as we know from our lived experience, is that Lampert has been putting the company through the longest liquidation in retail history. If he regains control of Sears, he will merely continue that slow burn."

However, if Lampert’s deal to acquire Sears and all its assets through his hedge fund, ESL Investment, collapses, Sears will almost inevitably liquidate, leaving more than 45,000 people without jobs.

In a statement to FOX Business, ESL said despite the backlash, its bid is the “only long-term opportunity to save and create jobs, honor the extended warranties that were purchased by so many customers, generate new volume and grow.”

Additionally, ESL added that its intent for the new Sears is to operate as many stores as reasonably possible, including “new smaller stores that emphasize our stronger capabilities.”

“Continuing to operate a meaningful network of stores is essential to achieving our goal of returning Sears to profitability,” an ESL spokesperson said.

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Still, employees aren’t buying it and many workers asked to meet with Judge Drain to listen to their concerns about the deal.

On Thursday, more testimony from witnesses on both sides is expected to take the stand with closing arguments and a possible ruling set for  Friday.

Employees concluded their letter saying while they love their company and want to see it prosper again, they have "deep concerns" that if Lampert takes the helm again, "the Sears and Kmart we know and love will be gone forever."

"Since the bankruptcy announcement in October, we have not had peace of mind. It was stunning to watch our company and our jobs being tossed around like a volleyball by Eddie Lampert, with no outreach to his employees. This is not surprising — Lampert always put personal financial gain before his employees and their families."

This story was updated on February 7, 2019.

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