Sears is preparing for bankruptcy as soon as this weekend

A Sears department store is seen in Austin Texas U.S

Sears, once the world's largest retailer, has struggled in the face of declining foot traffic in its stores. Lampert and ESL are the company's two largest shareholders.

On Tuesday, Sears also brought in restructuring expert Alan Carr as a company director, broadening the six-person board to seven and adding further guidance on how to steer a large company through a bankruptcy filing. It still has nearly 900 stores, and its stocks bounced upward a year ago when the retailer announced a partnership with Amazon to install vehicle tires bought online. Lampert bought Sears in 2004 and merged it with Kmart, in which he had a controlling stake, the next year.

The Wall Street Journal reported late Tuesday that Sears hired boutique advisory firm M-III Partners LLC to help prepare a bankruptcy filing before a $134 million debt payment comes due on Monday, citing people familiar with the matter. Spokespeople for Lampert and Sears declined to comment. But if Sears is now in touch with banks to secure the financing needed for a bankruptcy filing, as CNBC reported Wednesday morning, that could send the surest signal that such a move may not be so far off.

Sears CEO Eric Lampert operates a hedge fund that is Sears' biggest shareholder and proposed last month to use the firm to buy some of Sears' holdings in order to shrink the retailer to profitability without going into bankruptcy.

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Sears and Kmart had 89,000 employees as of February 3 of this year, according to a company filing. In just the last few years RadioShack, Toys "R" Us and Sports Authority have all followed the path to the retailer graveyard. The company is now $5.6 billion in debt. Sears warned it could go out of business as it waits for approval from the committee on the deal.

Hedge fund manager Edward Lampert, who serves as Sears' chairman, CEO, largest shareholder, and biggest creditor, announced an attempt at restructuring the company's debt on September 24.

J.C. Penney's former CEO Marvin Ellison in 2016 positioned the Plano-based retailer to win shoppers from Sears as it closed stores by adding kitchen and laundry appliances to stores.

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