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Jul 28, 2017

Eddie Lampert shelves plans to partner with Fairholme on Sears bid

A Sears Canada outlet is seen Tuesday, June 13, 2017 in Saint-Eustache, Que.

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Billionaire investor Eddie Lampert is shelving any plans to partner with Fairholme Capital to buy Sears Canada.

Lampert, who owns 45.3 per cent of the insolvent retailer both personally and through his ESL Partners investment vehicle, said in a press release that he’s terminated the joint engagement to consider a myriad of potential deals with Bruce Berkowitz’s investment firm. Fairholme holds a 20.8 per cent stake in Sears Canada.

The pair were among 20 parties who entered non-disclosure agreements to get a look at the retailer’s books, as it undergoes liquidation sales at 54 locations in an attempt to raise as much cash as possible during insolvency proceedings.

While a joint proposal for the company is currently off the table, both Lampert and Fairholme said in separate statements released early Friday that they’re still independently considering potential transactions. ESL said that beyond making a play for the whole firm, it could offload some or all of its common shares in order to trigger a tax loss for the fund.

Sears Canada (SCC.TO) gained approval to enter creditor protection on June 22, after warning it wouldn’t have enough cash to meet its debt obligations over the course of the next 12 months. The company has cut 2,900 jobs as a result.

Sears Canada’s plan to liquidate merchandise has faced a number of challenges in recent weeks, as complaints abound the sales are no better than what can be obtained at big box stores not under court protection.

The firm has also courted controversy over its executive compensation, with a social media campaign encouraging shoppers to boycott Sears after the company disclosed $9.2 million worth of retention bonuses for key executives.