Judge gives Eddie Lampert the greenlight as Sears gets a second shot at life

By RetailFOXBusiness

Judge approves sale of Sears to Eddie Lampert for $5.2 billion

FBN’s Gerri Willis discusses how a U.S. bankruptcy judge approved Eddie Lampert’s $5.2 billion takeover of Sears.

Billionaire hedge fund investor Eddie Lampert got his wish and Sears is getting a second shot a life.

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On Thursday, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain approved a $5.2 billion bid by Lampert's hedge fund, ESL Investment, to acquire the bankrupt retailer after four days of testimony.

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In reading his decision, Drain rejected arguments from a committee of creditors, who were urging the court to liquidate the assets as it was the best way to return the more than $3 billion owed to them. The creditors also argued the sale process was unfair.

However, hours earlier Lampert's team cleared a major hurdle in their bid by winning the support of the country's federal pension insurer.

Drain added that he expects to enter the order on Friday morning to make the deal official.

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Under the terms of the deal, ESL has promised to save 425 stores and roughly 45,000 jobs. Sears' bankruptcy estate has also promised to hand over $800 million to PBGC for its pensions.

However, some current and former employees of the embattled retailer are not too happy with the judge's decision.

In a letter sent to Judge Drain on Monday, 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" on the decision, saying they believe the transaction is merely a scheme for the former Sears CEO to “steal” more key assets.

"For the sake of our jobs, our co-workers, 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."

Philip Emma, senior analyst at Debtwire, told FOX Business that the ruling today did "what the US Bankruptcy process is designed to do," which is to get a "fresh financial start."

"For retailers, it provides the opportunity to get out of the stores that were dragging down performance.  That’s what the ruling will do for Sears. What the bankruptcy process doesn’t do is fix issues of customer perception, store traffic, and losing share to the competition. For Sears to have a viable future it’s how they address those challenges now that they have been afforded a second chance," Emma said.  

A spokesperson for ESL or Sears didn't not immediately respond to FOX Business' request for comment on the ruling.