How Eddie Lampert Dismantled Sears for Personal Gain
Job Losses at Sears, 2005-2019
Eddie Lampert, a billionaire and manager of a hedge fund called ESL, leads a merger between Sears and Kmart. Lampert is said to have made $1 billion from this deal.
At the peak of the financial crisis, under Lampert's leadership, Sears started a five-year share buyback frenzy (share buybacks are when companies buy their own stocks in order to make stock seem more valuable). Sears ended up spending over $5.3 billion in share buybacks, instead of investing in Sears employees, updated brick-and-mortar stores, or modern strategies to keep Sears competitive for the long run.
Lampert separated three iconic Sears brands (Kenmore, Craftsmen and Diehard) from Sears so Sears has to pay a fee to use the brands.
Sears' last profitable year.
Lampert bought the 79th largest yacht in the world and named it the Fountainhead.
Sears spun off Orchard Supply and Sears Hometown and Outlet with Lampert's ESL as the largest owner.
Lampert moved ESL from Connecticut to Florida. This is likely because Florida doesn’t have a state income tax and its property taxes are relatively low. He runs Sears from his new mansion.
Lampert officially took over as the CEO of Sears. This is when Sears started to lose $200+ million per year in interest payments on their debt to ESL.
Sears spun off Lands End with Lampert owning the majority of the new company and serving as board chair. The value of Lampert's shares in Lands End jumped from $430 to $578 million.
In 2015, Lampert and other Sears investors (including Trump's Treasury Secretary and Lampert's college roommate, Steve Mnuchin) created a new real estate company called Seritage Growth Properties. Lampert invested $745 million and became Seritage’s chairman. Sears sold 266 store properties to Seritage for $3 billion. Over following years, Sears paid over $500 million in rent to Seritage.
Lampert is reported to be the most hated CEO in America. Since he became CEO Sears stock has dropped by 80%.
Lampert continues attempts to buy the "good parts" of Sears. He offers to buy the Kenmore appliance brand for $400 million in cash through his hedge fund ESL Investments and ESL also offered to buy the Home Improvements business for $80 million in cash.
After 126 years in business, Sears filed for bankruptcy. Lampert stepped down as CEO but continues as board chair. Lampert was already the largest creditor with a debt holding of $2.6 billion.
Bankruptcy proceedings were contentious, with unsecured creditors accusing Lampert of fraudulent activity. The federal pension insurer (PBGC) believes Lampert owes $1.7 billion in pension obligations. After many deals were cut, Lampert's $5.2 billion bid is accepted.
This means that Sears will be reorganized as a private company and keep 425 stores with 45,000 jobs. However, Lampert will continue as chairman and majority owner.
Sears is expected to close 3 stores per month for the rest of the year. Experts think Lampert just wants the company back for its valuable real estate. He takes zero responsibility for his mismanagement of Sears.
The fates of Sears and Kmart families are back in billionaire Eddie Lampert’s hands. Employees from all over the country are fighting back against Wall Street greed, and calling for justice for all our families.