Eddie Lampert Finds A Lifeline For Sears With Cyrus Capital Partners
Cyrus Capital Partners has agreed to partner with Lampert's hedge fund ESL Investments in a deal that would trade the debt the two firms hold for ownership shares in Sears Holdings, Bloomberg reports. The move would ease a significant debt load and give ESL and Cyrus major control over the company.
Lampert has been fighting against liquidation since Sears Holdings filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Oct. 15, a move that coincided with his resignation as CEO. Its unsecured debt holders, the last in line to be paid, have complained that the money it would cost to stay open would leave them out in the cold.
Sears had reached an agreement with Great American Capital Partners for a $350M debtor-in-possession loan as a way to keep stores open in exchange for GACP jumping the line of debt repayment. But in a deal reportedly struck in the hallway of the bankruptcy court, Cyrus usurped GACP's bid by agreeing to terms with a 1.5% discount on interest rates.
GACP President John Ahn told Bloomberg he suspects Cyrus of having a conflict of interest with Sears because it has several different positions in the debt stack, as well as a series of default insurance contracts that amount to a side bet on Sears' survival.
“If you look at the loan on a stand-alone basis, the final terms they agreed to were unattractive,’’ Ahn told Bloomberg. “Cyrus is invested in a lot of different pieces of Sears’ capital structure in a big way, so it’s unclear what their overall motivations are.”
Though Lampert is no longer the CEO of Sears Holdings, he remains the chairman and largest shareholder between his personal holdings and those of ESL. Over the course of his tenure as CEO, Lampert made several moves to infuse cash and lighten Sears' debt load. Some have argued that such moves also coincided with consolidating Lampert's control of Sears' assets as well as enriching him personally.
Though its connections with Lampert are unclear, Cyrus' moves are consistent in their aim to both protect the debt it already holds from losing value and keep it among the highest-priority creditors, according to Bloomberg.