Take a look at the letter that Sears Chairman Eddie Lampert sent to Sears employees upon announcing that the beleaguered retailer and faded private brand icon was declaring bankruptcy.
In the letter, he acknowledges stepping down as President and optimistically if delusionally presents hope for the future in the “member-centric company”.
The Path Forward for Sears Holdings
I am writing to give you an important update about Sears Holdings. As you know, over the last several years, we have worked hard to transform our business. While our plan is delivering for our members, our efforts to become a profitable and more competitive retailer have been affected by a difficult retail environment, unsatisfactory operating performance, and legacy liabilities impacted by historically low-interest rates.
Today we have announced a series of actions to position us to establish a sustainable capital structure, continue streamlining our operations, and grow profitably for the long term. While we have sought to avoid a Chapter 11 process, we have ultimately determined that this is the most effective and orderly way to achieve a debt solution as efficiently as possible and be better positioned for the future. We began this process this evening.
What does this mean? Chapter 11 is a tool used by companies like ours to protect the value of their businesses and operate as usual while they work to fix their business and address their liabilities. It is an orderly, proven process. Many prominent companies and brands have gone through this process and emerged stronger than ever.
Our goal is to emerge as a member-centric company, reorganized around a smaller platform of profitable stores, with the capital needed to allow us to prosper in the future. We are eager to move forward quickly and preserve as many jobs as possible. I want to make sure that all of the hard working associates of Sears Holdings and the dedicated members of our Shop Your Way program know that we are committed to trying to get the best possible result for the company – and for all of you.
I want to highlight some key points from today’s announcement:
- We’re open for business: Our Sears and Kmart stores, and online and mobile platforms, are open and continue to serve our members and customers. Our services and brand businesses will also operate as usual.
- We do not anticipate any impact to your wages and benefits: We intend to pay your normal wages and continue benefits without interruption.
- Our member programs continue: We remain committed to providing our customers and members with trusted service. Our loyalty programs, including the Shop Your Way membership program, warranties, protection agreements, and the Sears and private label credit card rewards programs continue as normal.
- We do not anticipate any impact to vendor payments: We intend to pay our vendors in the ordinary course for all goods and services provided on or after the filing date. We are committed to working with our vendors and other partners to help maintain inventory levels, ensure timely product delivery, and continue contracted services.
- We will continue to take action to streamline our store base: We will close 142 additional unprofitable stores near the end of the year. These locations are being notified.
There’s one additional piece of information I’d like to share with you. In conjunction with this process, I’ve decided to step down as CEO. Know that this does not change my commitment to Sears Holdings, and I will continue to be actively involved as Chairman of the Board of Directors.
To manage the day-to-day operations of the Company, the Board has created an Office of the CEO, which will be composed of Robert A. Riecker, Chief Financial Officer; Leena Munjal, Chief Digital Officer; and Gregory Ladley, President of Apparel and Footwear. This strong group will be supported by our new Chief Restructuring Officer, Mohsin Meghji of M-III Partners, as well as the rest of our Senior Leadership Team. I believe this transition will help ensure the integrity of the restructuring process, and I have every confidence in the team that will guide the Company through this period.
KEEPING YOU INFORMED
I understand that you will have questions about how this announcement may impact you. To that end, click here to submit questions. Tuesday morning, I will host a town hall for our associates at Hoffman Estates and other corporate locations at 9 a.m. Central. Managers across the Company will be briefing their teams throughout the day and Regional Reps will brief store associates in their daily rallies.
So that you are aware, we have filed a number of customary motions with the Bankruptcy Court to ensure a smooth transition into the restructuring process without disruption to our day-to-day operations. These “first day” motions ask for the authority to continue payment of prepetition wages and continuation of benefits, among other things. We will notify you after the Bankruptcy Court has considered the Company’s request.
Please know that we are committed to keeping you updated every step of the way. If you have further questions, speak with your manager or HR representative, call (REDACTED) or go to MyHR (REDACTED). Moving forward, we will provide timely updates throughout the process when there are developments to share.
I very much appreciate your hard work and ongoing commitment through the upcoming holiday season and beyond. Thanks to your efforts and the proactive steps we are taking, we look forward to Sears Holdings emerging stronger than before.