Sears Holdings Corp. filed for chapter 11 protection today with a plan to close 142 more stores, Reuters reported. The chapter 11 filing to reorganize debts of the parent of Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Kmart Corp. follows a decade of revenue declines, hundreds of store closures, and years of deals by billionaire Chief Executive Officer Eddie Lampert in an attempt to turn around the company he bought in 2004. Lampert had pledged to restore Sears to its glory days, when it owned the tallest building in the world and companies that included a radio station and Allstate insurance. But the company has not turned a profit since 2011, and critics say Lampert let the stores deteriorate over the years, even as he bought the company's stock and lent it money. It has sold off the legendary Craftsman brand and is considering an offer from Lampert for the Kenmore appliance name. The company listed $6.9 billion in assets and $11.3 billion in liabilities in documents filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York. Read more.
For much of the 20th century, Sears Holdings Corp. defined American retailing with catalogs and department stores that brought toys, tools and appliances to millions of homes. By the time Sears filed for bankruptcy, the once-great company was shriveled and sickly, according to a Wall Street Journal commentary. Decades earlier, it had been dethroned by Walmart Inc. as the biggest U.S. retailer. Then it was crippled by a chief executive with unorthodox strategies, and Amazon.com Inc., an endless online catalog that sucked profits out of the business, according to the commentary. For much of its 125 years, Sears was a pioneer, launching brands like Kenmore appliances and Craftsman tools. It shipped a catalog to nearly every U.S. home and created its own credit card to spur sales. After World War II, it followed people to the suburbs, helping build the malls that moved retailing away from Main Street. It was the first major chain to build parking lots and open its doors on Sundays. Many Americans still live in Sears kit houses, so named because they were purchased via the catalog and delivered in pieces by railroad. Sears’s reach went beyond selling homes and the things Americans put inside them. It created Allstate Insurance Co. and the Discover credit card. In Chicago in 1973, it opened the 110-story Sears Tower, then the world's tallest building; it was renamed the Willis Tower in 2009. Read the full commentary. (Subscription required.)