Marietta Kmart to learn fate in February

Marietta’s Kmart will remain open for the immediate future, but a Feb.1 court hearing will determine if it will survive for the long term.

Sears Holdings, the parent company of Kmart, announced a bid for $5.2 billion from ESL Investments Inc. was accepted by its board for the purchase of essentially all of the company’s assets. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October after it couldn’t pay the $134 million owed to vendors. The deal is not set in stone, though. It still must receive approval from the bankruptcy court in a hearing scheduled for Feb. 1. According to the company’s press release, if conditions are satisfied, the deal will close on or around Feb. 8.

ESL Investments Inc. is a hedge fund owned by Eddie Lampert. Lampert, who is also Sears Holdings’ chairman, originally used the fund to purchase all of Kmart’s debts after a 2002 bankruptcy, and merged the retail giant with Sears, forming Sears Holdings. The hedge fund’s original offer of $4.6 billion was not accepted by the company’s board in December, putting the company’s future in question before the current offer was approved.

In the press release, the Restructuring Committee for the Board of Directors said they were grateful to the employees, vendors and customers who stuck by them through the bankruptcy.

“We are pleased to have reached a deal that would provide a path for Sears to emerge from the Chapter 11 process. Importantly, the consummation of the transaction would preserve employment for tens of thousands of associates, as well as the relationships with many vendors and suppliers who provide Sears with goods and services,” they said. “We would like to thank our dedicated associates, vendors and partners for their continued support through this process, and most importantly the members and customers we have the privilege to serve.”

Washington County Commissioner Kevin Ritter said the proposed purchase of Sears Holdings is good news for the citizens of the county.

“If Kmart is in fact staying open, it will mean fewer jobs lost in the county,” he said. “And it will continue to give people a less expensive place to shop.”

Alice Taylor, 61, of St. Marys, W.Va., was shopping at Kmart in Marietta Friday and said the news of the potential purchase would help her pocketbook.

“(Kmart) has much better bargains than other stores,” she said. “I get all my clothes and shoes here.”

Taylor said there are probably some other people in the area who are even more excited about the news of the purchase than she is.

“I bet the employees are real happy to hear about it,” she said.

Representatives from the Marietta Kmart and Sears Holdings did not respond to calls for comment.

At a glance

•What: Purchase of Sears Holdings by ESL Investments Inc.

•Cost: A $5.2 billion bid was accepted Wednesday after a $4.6 billion dollar bid was rejected in December.

•Stores: There are 425 Kmart and Sears stores across the country.

•Jobs: 45,000 jobs will be saved if purchase is approved by courts.