Sears has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, buckling under its massive debt load and staggering losses.
Sears once dominated the American retail landscape. But the big question is whether the shrunken version of itself can be viable or will it be forced to go out of business, closing the final chapter for an iconic name that originated more than a century ago.
The company, which started out as a mail order catalog in the 1880s, has been on a slow march toward extinction as it lagged far behind its peers and has incurred massive losses over the years. The operator of Sears and Kmart stores joins a growing list of retailers that have filed for bankruptcy or liquidated in the last few years amid a fiercely competitive climate.
The filing, which is happening ahead of the crucial holiday shopping season, comes after rescue efforts engineered by its CEO and chairman Eddie Lampert have kept it outside of bankruptcy court -- until now. Lampert, the largest shareholder, has been loaning out his own money for years and has put together deals to prop up the company, which in turn has benefited his own ESL hedge fund.
Last year, Sears sold its famous Craftsman brand to Stanley Black & Decker Inc., following its earlier moves to spin off pieces of its Sears Hometown and Outlet division and Lands' End.
In recent weeks, Lampert has been pushing for a debt restructuring and offering to buy some of Sears' key assets like Kenmore through his hedge fund as a $134 million debt repayment comes due on Monday.
The company has racked up $6.26 billion in losses, excluding one-time events, since its last annual profit in 2010.