WHITE PLAINS - Sears Chairman Edward Lampert's push to save the bankrupt retailer still has a shot to succeed.
Sears agreed to consider a revised bid from Lampert along with other bids during a bankruptcy auction Monday, Ray Schrock, an attorney for Sears Holdings Corp., told Judge Robert Drain on Tuesday during a hearing before the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.
While Lampert has bought more time to revise his bid, which aims to keep the retailer in business and preserve up to 50,000 jobs, he must also post a $120 million deposit by 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Sears still operates two stores in the mid-Hudson - at the Newburgh Mall and Poughkeepsie Galleria.
Lampert's ESL Investments said late last month it was prepared to pay $4.4 billion for many of the retailer's remaining assets, including about 425 Sears and Kmart stores.
Transform Holdco, a new entity controlled by ESL, said in a letter to Sears' investment banker that it believes keeping the retailer in business is the best way to preserve jobs and recover money the company owes.
About $17.9 million of the $120 million deposit is nonrefundable and will cover the cost of delaying the company's liquidation if ESL doesn't emerge as the winning bidder, Schrock said.
Sears' decision to review a revised bid from Lampert came after several days of "virtually round-the-clock negotiations," Schrock said.
Abid Qureshi, an attorney representing a committee of Sears' creditors, told the court they had not been included in the negotiations and continue to have "significant concerns" about ESL's bid.
Lampert, Sears' former CEO and, through his hedge fund, its largest shareholder, gave the company more than $2.4 billion in secured financing, ESL said in a letter to Sears' investment banker.
ESL's ability to finance its purchase by effectively forgiving the retailer's debt also will be considered at the bankruptcy auction, Schrock said.
Sears has not said how many other offers it received or whether any others would let the retailer avoid liquidation. Great American Group submitted a bid with Tiger Capital Group but declined to share details of the offer.
Transform Holdco, the entity controlled by ESL, also said it would bid individually on some assets if the $4.4 billion bid was not accepted.
Drain said other parties can submit additional or improved bids before the Monday auction and that Sears will be obligated to consider all its options.
Sears, once the country's biggest retailer, has lost more than $11 billion since 2011.
At the time of its bankruptcy filing, it employed 68,000 people, down from 178,000 in January 2016, at 687 Sears and Kmart stores.
The retailer has shuttered hundreds of stores in recent years and closed or announced plans to close 262 more by late March.
Any bankruptcy auction sale would require the Bankruptcy Court's approval, and a hearing to approve the auction results has been set for Jan. 31.