Sears continues its struggle to survive. The iconic but now bankrupt chain announced Friday it was closing 80 more Sears and Kmart stores. It also reportedly received a last-minute bid from its chairman to keep much of the business alive.
According to reports by Reuters and CNBC, Eddie Lampert, the Sears chairman and its largest creditor, met a deadline late Friday imposed by the company for potential buyers of hundreds of stores and other Sears assets.
CNN Business was not immediately able to confirm those reports. A representative for Lampert did not respond to multiple requests for comment Friday. Sears declined to comment.
Sears filed for bankruptcy protection on October 15. Any bid to purchase it must be approved by a bankruptcy court.
A hedge fund controlled by Lampert is the only entity to publicly disclose a plan to bid. Earlier this month, he said he intended to offer $4.6 billion for the stores and assets. His plan would retain the jobs of 50,000 of the 68,000 workers employed by Sears at the time of the bankruptcy filing.
Lampert proposed putting in relatively little additional cash as part of his planned bid, instead offering to forgive some of the money he is owed and then having the new version of Sears borrow money.
A committee of other creditors, including vendors and landlords, has proposed that Sears instead move forward with plans to shut down the business, closing all the stores and liquidating its inventory and other assets. They argue it is the best way to stem losses and return the greatest amount of cash to the people and businesses owed money by Sears.
In a court filing, the creditors' attorney called Sears' plan to become profitable "nothing more than wishful thinking " and "an unjustified and foolhardy gamble with other people's money."
Sears' lawyers have argued in court that staying in business is the best course for all parties, including lenders who are owed money.
US Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Drain, who is hearing the case, has so far allowed Sears to proceed with plans to stay in business. But he will be hearing from creditors again at hearings set for next month. Any plan would have to be approved by the court.
Earlier on Friday, Sears announced it was closing 80 more stores. The closings comprise 43 Sears and 37 Kmart stores, the two brands operated by Sears Holdings. Most of the 80 stores will shut down by late March. Going out of business sales will start within two weeks.
The company had nearly 700 stores at the time of its bankruptcy filing.
Lampert bought Sears and merged it with Kmart in 2005 to form Sears Holdings. He was its CEO until its bankruptcy filing as well as its primary shareholder as it lost billions of dollars and closed thousands of stores.
For much of the 20th century it was not only the nation's largest retailer, it was the largest private-sector employer. With its network of hundreds of stores anchoring malls across America, as well as its catalog selling people virtually any item they could need, it was both the Walmart and Amazon of its day.