Sears Holdings Corp. is inching closer to a financial lifeline that it needs to avoid running out of cash while it pursues a turnaround, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
The new loan won’t involve Sears Chairman Eddie Lampert’s hedge fund, ESL Investments Inc., according to the person, despite the company’s initial plan for the executive’s firm to arrange that leg of financing. Lampert, through ESL, owns the majority of Sears’s debt in addition to being its primary shareholder.
Instead, the retailer has made an unusual pitch to senior lenders: if the banks release certain assets securing their own debtor-in-possession loan, Sears will produce a third-party lender to buy half of that debt, plus provide the remainder of what the company needs, the person said.
The latest financing effort, which was first reported by Reuters, has come together over a series of meetings with the lender banks, who would agree to extend Sears only $300 million of a requested $600 million in bankruptcy financing last month, according to people involved in those talks.
Representatives for Sears and for ESL declined to comment on the negotiations.
Sears is next expected in court Nov. 15, when it will formally present its plan for keeping the lights on throughout the holiday season. The new cash is crucial to that plan given the rate at which its burning through its cash, Sears lawyer Ray Schrock of Weil Gotshal said in court Oct. 15.
“When you look at the cash burn associated with the overhead of the enterprise, it’s really something where things have to move very quickly,” Schrock said. “It really has to happen on an expedited time frame.”
The case is Sears Roebuck and Co., 18-23537, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (White Plains).