By Mike Spector, Jessica DiNapoli and Harry Brumpton
(Reuters) – Sears Holdings Corp <SHLDQ.PK> Chairman Eddie Lampert has submitted a roughly $4.6 billion (£453 million) takeover bid for the bankrupt retailer, representing its only chance of escaping liquidation and laying off tens of thousands of workers, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.
The offer came after Sears’ existing lenders Bank of America Corp <BAC.N> and Citigroup Inc <C.N>, as well Royal Bank of Canada <RY.TO>, which was not previously a lender, agreed to provide a $950 million asset-based loan and a $350 million revolving credit line to back Lampert’s bid, the sources said.
Lampert’s bid would preserve about 425 stores that Sears has yet to close, and secure the jobs of 50,000 workers out of the 68,000 employed by the retailer, the sources said.
Some of Lampert’s bid relies on $1.8 billion of Sears debt that his hedge fund ESL Investments Inc already holds and Lampert plans to forgive to back his offer, the sources said. The bid also has about $400 million in financing from non-bank lenders, according to the sources.
It is possible that Lampert’s bid for Sears will be rejected or otherwise fall through, the sources cautioned, asking not to be identified because the matter is confidential.
Sears, Lampert and representatives for the banks either declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment.
Without the financing or another buyer, Sears faces the prospect of closing its doors for good and putting roughly 68,000 people out of work.
The 125-year-old retailer filed for bankruptcy on Oct. 15 and developed plans to restructure around the sale of 500 stores and businesses including Kenmore, DieHard and the company’s home services division. Only Lampert’s ESL offered to buy the entire company.
The only other bids Sears has received are from suitors interested in pieces of the company and liquidators prepared to run going-out-of-business sales at stores and shut down the retailer.
(Reporting by Mike Spector, Jessica DiNapoli and Harry Brumpton in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler)