Lampert Cuts Sears Stake Below 50% As Fund Clients Redeem



Edward Lampert, the hedge-fund manager who for the past eight years tried to turn around Sears Holdings Corp., cut his stake in the retailer below 50 percent.

Lampert's ESL Investments Inc. owns 48 percent of the Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based department store chain, down from 55 percent reported as recently as October, according to a filing Tuesday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Sears has been struggling since Lampert, 51, engineered the merger of Kmart Holding Corp. and Sears, Roebuck & Co. in 2005. The company has posted 27 straight quarterly sales declines, prompting Lampert's investors to pull money and causing the billionaire, who took over as chief executive officer of Sears in February, to surrender majority control.

"We will continue to focus on the transformation of Sears Holdings into a membership-focused company and on creating long- term value for its shareholders," Lampert said in an e-mailed statement. "My significant personal ownership in the company is a sign of my confidence and alignment with all shareholders."

November same-store sales appear to be negative in the mid- to-high single digits, with Sears continuing to lose share in home appliances, Daryl Boehringer, an analyst at Cleveland Research, wrote in a report Wednesday. Cleveland has a neutral rating on the stock, the equivalent of a hold.

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