By Lenore Fedow
About 425 Sears and Kmart stores will stay open after Chairman Eddie Lampert’s ESL Investments Inc. bought the company out of bankruptcy.
New York—In the latest chapter of the Sears saga, Chairman Eddie Lampert’s private equity firm ESL Investments Inc. has completed its acquisition of Sears Holdings’ assets, the company confirmed Monday.

The retail giant filed for Chapter 11 in October, but former CEO Lampert submitted a $4.4 billion bid for the company.

After the acceptance deadline for that bid passed without a word from Sears, ESL upped its bid to $5.2 billion, which was accepted.

As per the deal, more than 223 Sears and 202 Kmart stores will remain open, keeping around 50,000 workers employed.

“The best possible outcome has now been realized for all stakeholders, including Sears’ many associates, Shop Your Way members, vendors and other partners. ESL looks forward to a new era at Sears and Kmart that builds on their proud histories, while finding new ways to innovate and grow to adapt to the forces transforming the retail industry,” Lampert said.

Whether or not the iconic retailer will be able to regain traction remains to be seen, but Lampert said he plans to return Sears to profitability in fiscal 2019.

Currently, the role of CEO of Sears Holdings is shared among Chief Financial Officer Robert A. Riecker, Chief Digital Officer Leena Munjal and Softlines President Greg Ladley, but Sears is on the lookout for someone to fill the role.

Sears did not respond to a request for comment regarding the timeline for finding a new CEO.

Once a heavyweight in the retail space, Sears’ shrinking presence may give other department stores a leg up, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

“As Sears continues to shrink its footprint following its Chapter 11 filing, department stores in locations that overlap with Sears stores, such as Macy’s, J.C. Penney and Dillard’s, will have the opportunity to pick up new customers,” Christina Boni, a Moody’s VP-senior credit officer, said in a research note.

“Last year we saw a similar situation, with the bankruptcy of Bon-Ton positively affecting sales for Macy’s and Kohl’s.”

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