By Mike Spector and Jessica DiNapoli
Sears Holdings Corp (O:SHLD) Chief Executive Officer Eddie Lampert is exploring a bid for some of the cash-strapped U.S. retailer's businesses and real estate once it files for bankruptcy as an alternative to a traditional court-supervised reorganization, people familiar with the matter said on Thursday.
Under this scenario, the 125-year-old department store operator, once the world's largest retailer, would initially avoid an outright liquidation, but would have to navigate the bankruptcy process without some of its key assets.
Lampert, who is Sears' biggest shareholder and lender, is considering bidding for its Kenmore appliances brand and home services business in addition to some real estate, the sources said.
Sears is also weighing a traditional bankruptcy reorganization, and no final decisions have been made, the sources added.
Lampert had already offered $480 million for the Kenmore and home services businesses as part of an out-of-court rescue plan, and is mulling trying to buy them through bankruptcy auctions under this option, the sources said. The auctions are executed under Section 363 of the U.S. bankruptcy code.
The exact assets that Lampert is thinking about purchasing in bankruptcy remain in flux, the sources said.
Lampert could help finance his bids for the assets by forgiving some Sears' debt, as opposed to putting in more cash, one source said.
Sears is still negotiating potential financing to keep it afloat while under bankruptcy protection after discussions with banks on Wednesday night failed to result in an agreement, the sources said.
Another meeting with potential financing sources was planned for Thursday, the sources added.
The sources declined to be identified because the deliberations are confidential. A Lampert spokesman declined to comment while a Sears spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.