Most folks don’t know the name Eddie Lampert, unless they are a Sears or Kmart employee or retiree. Eddie started his career at Goldman Sachs, where he and his college roommate, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, learned how to extract cash from stable companies, then use it to place and hedge risky bets.
While Mnuchin and Goldman Sachs were using this strategy to shipwreck Montana Power, Eddie started up a hedge fund, and bought a yacht he named Fountainhead, after Ayn Rand’s lousy novel. In 2004 his fund became majority shareholder in Sears and he orchestrated the merger with Kmart. The stock soared, but rather than invest profits back into the company by upgrading stores or developing an online marketplace, Eddie extracted the cash and sunk it into his hedge fund.
The neglect of the company’s core business made it uncompetitive in the changing retail market. Sears and Kmart needed loans to stay afloat, and right there waiting to write the checks was Eddie Lampert. Hundreds of millions of dollars later, Eddie is not only Sears CEO, he is also their biggest creditor. Any cash the company makes pays double-digit interest rates on the loans he gave.
When Eddie finally bankrupts Sears, as its chief creditor, he will be first in line to receive the valuable real estate holdings still in the company’s portfolio. What is left of Kmart and Sears are now worth more to him dead than alive.
Thanks to the massive reduction in corporate taxes, the Eddie Lamperts of the world have even more cash to extract from, rather than reinvest in, their companies. Wall Street loves it and the stock market bubble we are now seeing is being fueled primarily by cash flush investors betting that with every passing day of this pump and dump administration, they will have an even more deregulated market, where they can make money both winning and losing.
For the rest of us, we can at least pick the bones at the going-out-of-business sale at Kmart. The address is 3300 Harrison Avenue in Butte, ground zero of making America great again.