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Lampert’s hedge fund makes last-minute bid to save Sears

The Free Press WV

A hedge fund run by Sears Chairman Eddie Lampert said it submitted a last-minute bid Friday to keep the struggling retailer from being liquidated.

The bid, valued at $4.4 billion, still needs to be approved. A court date is scheduled for the middle of January.

Transform Holdco LLC, an affiliate of Lampert’s ESL Investments hedge fund, said it hoped to keep 425 stores open and 50,000 people working. The bid includes $1.3 billion in financing from three institutions, ESL said in a statement.

The iconic retailer, once the nation’s largest department store chain, faced a deadline of Friday for bids for its remaining stores to avert closing down completely. Earlier on Friday, Sears said it was closing 80 more stores. That’s in addition to the 182 stores already slated for closure, including 142 by the end of 2018 and 40 by February.

When the Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October, it had 687 stores and 68,000 workers.

The retailer that began as a mail order catalog in the 1880s has been in a slow death spiral, hobbled by the Great Recession and then overwhelmed by rivals both down the street and across the internet.

Sears Holdings Corp., which also runs Kmart, joins the list of retail brands taken over by hedge funds that collapsed under the weight of debt forced upon them. Not all have made it out of bankruptcy: Toys R Us shuttered all its stores in June, about nine months after filing for bankruptcy protection.

Under Lampert, Sears has bought time by spinning off businesses and putting on the block the brands that had grown synonymous with the company, such as Craftsman. The company’s chairman and biggest shareholder, Lampert loaned out his own money and put together deals to keep the company afloat and to turn whatever profit he could for ESL hedge fund.

ESL said that should its bid be accepted, it expects the company to emerge from bankruptcy.

Global Talks Take Aim at Short-Term Rentals

The Free Press WV

Hotel industry representatives and city officials from around the world will gathered in New York City to discuss how to regulate the “commonality of negative outcomes” they face from companies like Airbnb.

The booming home rental business — Airbnb posted $1 billion in revenue last quarter, while Expedia’s HomeAway earned $410 million — has stoked concern among affordable housing advocates, hoteliers and city officials who say the trend exacerbates local housing crunches.

But regulation could affect Airbnb’s plans for an IPO, prompting the company to plan protests outside of conference.


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Netflix Stock Bombs After Critical Miscalculation

The Free Press WV

Netflix’s share price, which had more than doubled since the start of the year, tumbled after the company admitted that subscriber growth is beginning to slow down. In a letter to shareholders, the company said subscriber growth between April and June had been 5.2 million—1 million below its prediction, CBS News reports. The company said it had “over-forecasted” subscriber numbers in the “strong but not stellar” quarter, reports Reuters. Shares dived nearly 14% in after-hours trading following the letter, wiping around $25 billion from the company’s market valuation.

McDonald’s Sued for $5M Over 2 Slices of Cheese

The Free Press WV

They didn’t want cheese on their Quarter Pounders. They claim they had to pay for it anyway—a cost of up to $1—and now want $5 million for the trouble. That’s according to a new lawsuit filed by two Florida residents against McDonald’s, which should be used to such fights by now. It came after Leonard Werner says he realized McDonald’s was repeatedly charging him for a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, but giving him a cheese-less sandwich, as he requested. “I started talking with some lawyer friends, saying, ‘What’s the deal? They can charge for something I didn’t get?‘ It’s not right,“ Werner says, per the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. According to Werner, McDonald’s restaurant menus no longer feature a cheese-less Quarter Pounder, but its app menu does, at a reduced cost of 30 cents to $1.

Restaurant customers are therefore “being forced to pay for two slices of cheese, which they do not want, order, or receive, to be able to purchase their desired product,“ the suit says. One of the attorneys who filed the suit, which is seeking class-action status, explains people who order a Big Mac with items left off “are not entitled to a credit against the purchase price” because the burger is trademarked according to its ingredients, per the Miami Herald. He says that’s not the case with the Quarter Pounder, since a cheese-less option is sold. Another lawyer involved says up to 25 million customers may have been overcharged and could be eligible to receive $10 and a free sandwich should a judge side with the plaintiffs. McDonald’s doesn’t expect that to happen, claiming the suit is without legal merit.

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