By Michelle Graff
Richard W. Sears and Alvah C. Roebuck started Sears in 1893 as a mail-order catalog business that sold watches to farmers, which was innovative at the time. Today, the retailer’s survival hinges upon a last-minute bid by Chairman Eddie Lampert.
New York—Sears Holdings Corp. Chairman Eddie Lampert has submitted a $4.4 billion bid to keep afloat at least a portion of the 125-year-old retailer, which owns both Sears and Kmart.

Lampert entered the bid through Transform Holdco LLC, an affiliate of his private equity firm, ESL Investments Inc.

According to a statement from Transform Holdco, the going concern bid includes $1.3 billion in financing from “three leading financial institutions” and is for 425 Sears and Kmart stores, a little more than half the number of stores Sears had when it filed for bankruptcy this fall.

If the bid is accepted, Transform said it would employ up to 50,000 people, reinstate severance for eligible employees and assume certain warranties for customers who purchased appliances, televisions and tractors at Sears’ stores.

ESL Investments announced its intention to bid about $4 billion for Sears Holdings Corp. earlier this month and made it formal by submitting it just under the bid deadline, which was 4 p.m. on Dec. 28.

It is now up to the advisers overseeing the Sears bankruptcy to decide what is in the best interest of the company and its creditors: liquidation or carrying on as a smaller company.

According to the Sears bankruptcy website, they will decide on Jan. 4 whom the qualified bidders are—including if Transform Holdco is one of them. If necessary, an auction among qualified bidders will take place Jan. 14.

Also on Dec. 28, Sears announced its intent to close 86 more stores—34 Kmart and 52 Sears locations.

The list includes stores in more than 30 states nationwide, from California to New York. It is available in its entirety on the bankruptcy website (Docket #1444).

Sears had 687 stores when it filed for bankruptcy and said at the time it wanted to save the approximately 400 that were “economically viable” while closing at least half of the remaining 287 stores.

Started in 1893 as an innovative catalog retailer that sold everything, including kits to build houses, Sears has struggled to find its footing in the internet age.

After years of closing stores in an effort to combat declining sales, the Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based company filed Chapter 11 in October in federal bankruptcy court in New York.

Lampert was CEO at the time Sears Holdings filed Chapter 11 but stepped down, with a team of three executives currently overseeing day-to-day operations.

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