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Judge approves sale of Sears to former CEO's hedge fund

10 February 2019

A Federal Bankruptcy Court judge on Thursday approved Edward Lampert's bid through his ESL Investments hedge fund to purchase the struggling retailer's assets for $5.2 billion.

Drain's ruling went against creditors owed more than $3 billion by Sears.

A competing bid by Abacus Advisory Group LLC, made on behalf of most Sears creditors and landlords, had meant to shut down and liquidate the company. Lampert has said the deal will allow Sears to preserve hundreds of stores and 45,000 jobs.

Ray Schrock, the lead bankruptcy attorney for Sears, argued that the proposal to liquidate would not raise more money than a sale, as claimed by the creditors.

Drain sided with Sears and Lampert, taking about 90 minutes to read his decision from the bench in White Plains, New York.

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Drain rejected arguments from a group of creditors that the sale process was unfair. He said dumping so many stores and other assets onto the market at the same time would reduce the amount of money that would be raised in liquidation.

Despite the court's approval of the takeover, Sears continues to face "major hurdles", Moody's department store analyst Christina Boni said.

"The benefits of the sales process really do outweigh an orderly wind down", he said. He overruled objections, including from an unsecured creditors committee. Although Drain did not have jurisdiction to decide the issue, he gave an advisory opinion in favor of Sears' claim that ESL is responsible for those liabilities.

"How long are these good locations going to remain good", said Stern, senior partner at Chicago-based McMillan Doolittle.

A USA bankruptcy judge on Thursday approved Sears Holdings Corp Chairman Eddie Lampert's $5.2-billion takeover of the beleaguered retailer, allowing the department store chain to avert liquidation and preserve tens of thousands of jobs. He said he may rule from the bench at the conclusion of the hearing. It also took over assets in the plan.

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James Bromley, ESL's attorney, said the disagreement can be settled in future negotiations after the deal closes.

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

As reported by FOX Business, the company's long-term obligations have been underfunded by more than $1 billion for years.

"We believe in the potential to create a successful, multi-faceted, 21st century company that can benefit from the changes in today's retail environment", said a statement from his hedge fund earlier this month. The company's corporate parent, which also owns Kmart, had 687 stores and 68,000 employees at the time of the filing.

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Judge approves sale of Sears to former CEO's hedge fund