Sears Closing Another 66 Stores; Joe's Crab Shack Files For Bankruptcy

Here's another example of when cornered hacks blame "fake news" or in this case, the "irresponsible media" for their gross incompetence, only to prove the media very much responsible and unfake.

One month ago, Sears CEO Eddie Lampert blasted the media 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, recently hit rock bottom and continued to dug when it warned investors in March there was a chance it may not survive after years of losses and declining sales. Still, that very warning did not prevent Lampert from lashing out at those who have - correctly - been warning that his company bankruptcy is just a matter of time, and back in May he kicked off the company's annual shareholders' meeting at the company's HQ with a 12 page slideshow of headlines about the company's financial distress, dating back to 2008 (Lampert is known for his peculiarities, collecting morbid headlines about his biggest asset was not known to be among them).

"You'd think it was from a month ago, but it's literally been going on for a decade," Lampert told the handful of furious Sears shareholders in attendance who have seen the value of their stock wiped out over the years.

There were other fireworks during the meeting, like for example when Lampert compared Sears - which hasn't posted a profit in six years - to Amazon's early unprofitable growth. He predicted people will look back and wonder how they missed the Sears' turnaround. The audience was not amused, and six shareholders questioned Lampert, including one asked if Lampert was paranoid and in denial about the company's losses.

Confirming the former, Lampert denied 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. "That's not about denial; that's about caring."

There was little else of substance discussed, with the bulk of Lampert's 90-minute appearance focused on the negative news coverage, which - just like Hillary Clinton - he said had been "deliberately unfair."

"It's irresponsible and it's been irresponsible for too damn long. We're just looking for a fair chance," Lampert said of the media. "Excuse my rant but a lot of what we're doing deserves a chance to see the light of day."

Less than a month later, Sears quietly proceeded to close another 66 stores in Lampert's drive to prove that he is neither paranoid not in denial, but merely a "caring" individual with a penchant for blaming the media for all his problems. Also, the company is burning through millions in cash, so it really had no other choice. The closures will include 49 Kmart stores and 17 Sears stores, with most shut by September according to USA today. The new closures are in addition to the 180 shutdowns Sears announced earlier this year.

Last month, roughly around the time Lampert was bashing "fake news" for the disintegration of Sears, the near-defunct retailer, in its latest scramble to preserve cash announced that it would delay repaying much of a $500 million loan; instead subs of Sears Holdings were granted a forebearance allowing them to repay only $100 million of the loan in July, the initial maturity date of the total debt. The remaining $400 million is not scheduled to come due until January of 2018, with Sears having an option - which it will exercise - of pushing the maturity to July of next year. The creditors will likely see at most pennies on the dollar.

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Elsewhere, as had been largely anticipated, the operator of the Joe’s Crab Shack and Brick House Tavern & Tap chains, Ignite Restaurant Group, was finally extinguished when the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, hoping to sell itself to an affiliate of Kelly Investment Group. The company, which had seen a steep drop in sales in recent years, listed total debts as of April 30 of  $197.3 million on $153.4 million in assets. Of course, the rats left the sinking ship long ago, with CEO Robert S. Merritt resigning in April, when he was replaced with turnaround firm Alvarez & Marsal.

Ignite operates, or rather operated, 137 Joe’s and Brick House restaurants in 32 states, with “large numbers” in Texas, Florida and California, plus - of all places - three franchises in the United Arab Emirates. It employs 8,400 people, including 5,500 part-time workers. The first Joe’s opened in Houston in 1991.

Fear not though bland seafood fans: the brand will continue to exist upon emergency from bankruptcy: Ignite has lined up Kelly affiliate KRG Acquisitions as a “stalking horse” to open bidding in a court-supervised auction. KRG is willing to pay $50 million and assume liabilities. One thing that will not be coming back, however, is a substantial number of employees, many of whom who will be "synergized" and "restructured" away.