By Carlo Versano
In many ways, it was Amazon before Amazon.
Sears, the 125-year-old retailer that pioneered the use of the U.S. Postal Service to sell Americans everything from jewelry to tires, has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Sears Holdings ($SHLD) reached a deal with lenders over the weekend that will reportedly require it to shut 150 stores immediately as it reorganizes. The company operates about 700 Sears and K-Mart stores.
Sears CEO Ed Lampert, a hedge fund titan who acquired Sears in 2005, became known for successfully spinning off some of Sears' most well-known brands, like Orchard Supply and Lands' End, even as the iconic department store itself languished. More than 100,000 Sears retirees are believed to hold pensions, which bankruptcy may protect. Less clear are the fortunes of the 90,000 or so Sears employees nationwide. The Wall Street Journal reported that Lampert believes he can restructure the company around 300 stores that are profitable.
Investors, however, seem to think liquidation is a more likely outcome. Sears shares have traded under $1 for the last several weeks ー a jarring price for a stock that hit an all-time high in April 2007, just before its fortunes began to turn.