In the wake of Eddie Lampert’s $4.6 billion bid for Sears and its assets, the retailer has hired real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) to market its portfolio of approximately 500 U.S. Sears and Kmart stores, and so far has seen high interest in major markets, according to a Bloomberg report.
Burlington Stores, At Home, DICK’S Sporting Goods and U-Haul are among those that have expressed interest in some Sears properties, along with potential buyers interested in converting stores into residential or office space, the report said.
“We have taken advantage of some of the Sears closures, where we’ll take a piece of the building and somebody else would take another piece of the building, and they’ll divide it up,” said Thomas Kingsbury, CEO of Burlington Stores in an earnings call last month. “I think Kmart is more of an opportunity for us, because they’re in very good locations. We’d have to carve up the box based on the current size of our box as we desire.”
At Home has been scouting Sears and Kmart stores for “about four years” as they became available on the market, a company spokesperson told CNBC.
Upon filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after years of financial turmoil, Sears has reportedly entertained bids from retailers, mall owners and liquidators, all of which are due by the end of the year. The bankruptcy auction for the retailer is expected to take place in mid-January 2019.
Lampert, the often-criticized Chairman of Sears Holdings, made the $4.6 billion bid through his hedge fund, ESL Investments. If the hedge fund’s offer is approved, Sears wouldn’t have to liquidate the remaining 500 Sears and Kmart stores. It could save the jobs of approximately 50,000 of the company’s 68,000 employees, Lampert wrote in a letter to investment banker Lazard Frères.
Sears presently owes $2.6 billion in loans to Lampert and his entities, which are the retailer’s largest creditors. But many of Sears’ unsecured creditors have questioned whether Sears has a viable future as an operating company. These parties believe Sears will be more valuable in pieces than as a company run under ESL ownership.