(CBS News) — The lights are still on at Sears, but the hedge fund now calling the shots is conducting some business at the ailing retailer largely in the dark.
Sears’s parent company, dubbed Transform Holdco (or Transformco) and run by Eddie Lampert and his ESL Investments fund, laid off about 250 employees last week at the company’s headquarters in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. The layoffs were disclosed in an August 29 notice with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
In early August, Transformco said it would close 26 stores by October. Transformco, however, declined to comment on media reports that as many as 100 additional Sears and Kmart stores would close by year-end. Some of the closings have been posted online on sites including thelayoff.com.
“We’re not providing a list of any of the more recent closings,” Sears spokesman Larry Costello told CBS MoneyWatch. Instead, the company is responding to queries “at a local level,” he added.
A review of the various closing lists posted by media and affecte4d Sears and Kmart employees indicates the Kmart in Fargo is among the stores targeted for closing by the end of 2019.
No other Sears or Kmart stores in North Dakota are on the closings list.
At one time the country’s biggest retailer, Sears declared bankruptcy in October amid slowing growth and weighed down by billions in debt. Lampert, the company’s former CEO and largest shareholder, bought it and 425 stores in February in a bankruptcy auction.
In winning a judge’s approval to buy what remained of Sears for $5.2 billion, Lampert touted his plan as a means of saving as many as 50,000 jobs and said he was setting aside funds to pay workers’ severance.
The company reiterated that pledge in its statement on store closures last month. “As we promised, all eligible associates will be offered the same number of weeks of severance as offered to employees of Sears Holdings Corporation prior to that company’s Chapter 11 filing in October 2018,” Transformco stated at the time.
On Wednesday night, Costello declined to say whether laid-off workers would get severance.