Old Sears vs. New Sears: Bankruptcy Judge Gives Companies 10 Days to Reach a Deal

The drama over Sears continued during a court hearing on Thursday. A New York bankruptcy judge threatened to appoint an examiner to resolve the conflicts surrounding the “New Sears” — the firm owned by former CEO Eddie Lampert’s namesake hedge fund that helped rescue the beleaguered retailer from liquidation.

Judge Robert Drain of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York gave Transform Holdco LLC and the “Old Sears” 10 days to settle their monthslong legal battle, which has seen the company’s unsecured creditors accuse Lampert of illegally siphoning billions of dollars of assets while the storied department store chain met its demise.

Seeking a court order, the “Old Sears” has demanded that Lampert pay more than $200 million as part of the latter’s agreement in February to purchase the company. The billionaire executive had agreed to cover the payments when he struck the $5.2 billion deal, allowing Sears to maintain operations at 425 stores and keep 45,000 jobs.

Transform Holdco affirmed in the hearing that it already gave at least $128 million it wasn’t duty-bound to pay, adding that it was owed a $20 million credit and control of the company’s Illinois-based corporate headquarters.

Last month, Lampert took steps to reunite the Sears family by agreeing to buy the remaining shares of Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores Inc. not already owned through ESL Investments Inc. Transform Holdco announced that it would pay $2.25 per share in cash to snap up 42% of the business.

The once-dominant Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Oct. 15 after failing to turn a profit since 2010. It joined a list of other high-profile retail victims including Toys R Us and Bon-Ton as brick-and-mortar mainstays shrink their physical footprints and invest more resources in e-commerce.

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