Some good entry points may open this weekAP
Sears' Lewis to Step Down As CEO
Monday January 28, 9:25 am ET
By Ashley M. Heher, AP Business Writer Sears Names Johnson As Interim CEO, Aylwin Lewis to Step Down As President, CEO
CHICAGO (AP) -- Department store retailer Sears Holdings Corp. said Monday that its president and chief executive would step down at the end of its fiscal year this week, the latest blow for an ailing company that's struggling to connect with customers and invigorate slumping sales.
Aylwin B. Lewis will be succeeded by W. Bruce Johnson, an executive vice president of supply chain and operations who will fill the role on an interim basis. The company is controlled by chairman Edward S. Lampert, the hedge fund kingpin who has recently announced plans to reshape it.
The 121-year-old retailer, which owns 3,800 Sears and Kmart stores in the U.S. and Canada, has been plagued by falling sales and increased competition from companies such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp.
Lewis, 52, was an executive at fast-food chain Yum Brands Inc. with little retail experience when Lampert hired him to become president and CEO of Kmart in 2004. A year later, he assumed the same role for Hoffman Estates-based Sears Holdings.
The company said Monday that Lewis will also resign from Sears' board.
"We are entering a new phase in Sears' evolution as a multichannel retailer, as reflected by the new operational structure we recently announced, and the board has determined that now is the right time to put in place new leadership to take the company forward," Lampert said in a statement.
Johnson will continue to be a member of the Office of the Chairman. He joined Kmart in 2003 as senior vice president of supply chain and operations and at the time of Sears' purchase of Kmart was appointed executive vice president of supply chain and operations for the combined company.
He was named to the Office of the Chairman in 2005 and took on store operations in 2006.
Before joining Sears, Johnson was a supply chain executive at French retailer Carrefour SA.
Lampert, who acquired Kmart in 2003 and Sears, Roebuck and Co. in 2005, announced plans last week to change its organizational structure in an effort to improve performance. The new structure will include five types of units: operating businesses, support businesses, brands, online and real estate.
The reorganization announcement came after Sears gave investors its latest round of bad news, announcing it would likely post fourth-quarter earnings well below Wall Street forecasts as eroding sales push its profit down as much as 57 percent.
The company said it expects to earn between $350 million and $470 million, or $2.59 to $3.48 per share, for the quarter ending Feb. 2 -- far less than the $4.43 per share sought by analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial. Sears earned $820 million in the fourth quarter a year earlier.
Retail consultant Howard Davidowitz, who is chairman of Davidowitz & Associates, said he questions how Sears can embark on such an ambitious restoration plan without a full-tine chief executive at the helm.
"This is further chaos at Sears," said Davidowitz, who has long been skeptical of Lampert's ability to successfully run a retailer. "The company is in free fall with an interim CEO and things look more chaotic than they did before and the worst is yet to come."
Meanwhile Monday, Sears disclosed in a regulatory filing that it may still be interested in acquiring retro-themed retailer Restoration Hardware Inc., but for a lower price than its tentative $6.75-per-share November bid.
Sears, which owns 13.7 percent of Restoration Hardware, said it was evaluating the latest private equity offer for the Corte Madera, Calif.-based company "in order to understand the implications for any deal that Sears Holdings might contemplate."
Last week, Catterton Partners lowered its bid for the home-furnishing store by more than $2 per share to $4.50 per share, or about $179 million, amid a weak housing market.
Sears shares, which reached a high of $195.18 in April, closed Friday at $99.00.http://www.searsholdings.com