Sears CEO Lampert blames company's woes on 'irresponsible' media

Wed May 10, 2017 8:55pm EDT
 
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By Tracy Rucinski

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. (Reuters) - Sears Holdings Corp (SHLD.O: Quote) Chief Executive Officer Edward Lampert blasted the media on Wednesday for "unfairly singling out" the company over the past decade and blamed "irresponsible" coverage for the retailer's woes.

Sears, once the largest U.S. retailer, warned investors in March there was a chance it may not be able to continue as a going concern after years of losses and declining sales.

About two dozen mid-size retailers have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the past two years amid fierce online competition and rapidly changing consumer tastes, while large department stores like Macy's Inc (M.N: Quote) and J C Penney Company Inc (JCP.N: Quote) have announced store closures for this year.

Lampert, a hedge fund investor who is rarely seen in public, kicked off his appearance at an annual shareholders' meeting at Sears' headquarters in Hoffman Estates, Illinois with a slideshow of headlines about the company's financial distress, dating back to 2008. (bit.ly/2qtqFL8)

"You'd think it was from a month ago, but it's literally been going on for a decade," Lampert told about 70 people in attendance.

The company has not reported a profit for six years, which Lampert compared to Amazon.com Inc's (AMZN.O: Quote) early unprofitable growth. He predicted people will look back and wonder how they missed the Sears' turnaround, which he said would be driven by the Shop Your Way rewards program.

Six shareholders questioned Lampert, including one who praised the CEO's hard work and efforts to return Sears to profitability but asked if Lampert was in denial about the company's losses and paranoid.

Lampert refuted his question, saying there were "behind-the-scenes" counterparties trying to take advantage of the company's situation and that he was trying to adapt and preserve as many jobs as possible.   Continued...

 
A Sears department store is pictured in La Jolla, California, U.S., March 22, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake