- Sears chairman Eddie Lampert took responsibility for some of the retailer’s mistakes during a town hall meeting with 1,000 Sears employees on Tuesday, according to audio obtained by Business Insider. CNBC was first to report the news.
- The department-store chain has been losing money and closing stores for years. Many employees and analysts blame Lampert for the retailer’s decline, accusing him of failing to invest in stores.
- In the past, Lampert has blamed the company’s decline on the media, shifts in consumer spending and the rise of e-commerce.
- READ MORE: Inside Sears’ death spiral.
Former SearsCEO Eddie Lampert, who stepped down on Monday after five years in the job, reportedly took responsibility for the retailer’s downfall while speaking to a crowd of 1,000 employees during a town hall meeting on Tuesday.
“When Sears and Kmart merged in 2005, I envisioned a company that would be different and relevant for the 21st century. … These were two, iconic companies that had lost their way,” Lampert said in the meeting at the company’s headquarters in Illinois, according to audio obtained by Business Insider.CNBC was first to report the news.
He continued: “As we all know, we haven’t capitalised on this opportunity the way I would have liked. Instead of growth and investment, we have faced retrenchment and restructuring.”
The company announced on Monday morning that it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and would be closing an additional 142 stores before the end of the year. Lampert will remain on as chairman of the board.
Sears has been losing money and closing stores for years, and many employees blame Lampert. In interviews with Business Insider’s Hayley Peterson in 2016, executives accused Lampert of neglecting Sears’ stores and leaving them to crumble in his bid to turn Sears into a tech company.
Between 2013 and this October, Sears’ store count dropped from 1,980 to 687, according to the company’s bankruptcy filing. The department store stayed afloat thanks to Lampert bailing it out with billions of dollars of loans through his hedge fund ESL Investments.
“There were mistakes along the way, for which I take responsibility,” he said on Tuesday. “Those failures have affected me in many ways far greater than any successes I have had. They have forced me to dig deep, to discover who I am and what I value.”
He went on to address his critics, saying: “The cynics don’t know how much I care and – more importantly – how much all of you care about this company.”
“We need to show material progress over the next few months to establish to our senior lenders that a reorganization of the company is realistic and to avoid a shutdown and liquidation. The sceptics may say that the fight is lost but now we have to regroup and do our best to prove them wrong.”
Sears’ new chief restructuring officer, Mo Meghji of M-III Partners, also spoke at the town hall.
“The whole world, it seems, is waiting for Sears to fail. I don’t believe it will. This is likely one of the toughest assignments I have had but if you are going to help me, I am up for the fight,” he said, according to a source who attended the event.
Read more about Sears’ downfall:
- Trump slams Sears leadership after bankruptcy filing, saying the company was ‘obviously improperly run for many years’
- Sears is shuttering 142 stores with liquidation sales starting immediately – here’s the complete list of closing stores
- Sears, once the largest retailer in the world, has filed for bankruptcy and is closing 142 stores. Here’s how it got there.
- ‘I’ve decided to step down as CEO’: Eddie Lampert sends email to Sears employees after the company files for bankruptcy
- Sears is closing hundreds of stores and keeping the rest open through the holiday season – but shoppers won’t get the blowout deals they might be expecting
- Sears has filed for bankruptcy and is closing stores. Here are the retail rivals who could benefit the most from its downward spiral.
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