The Eddie Lampert Odyssey

A profile of hedge-fund legend Eddie Lampert in the April issue of Vanity Fair takes an in-depth look at the CEO of Sears Holdings, the evolution of his career and the controversy surrounding what is widely viewed as his doomed merger of Sears and Kmart.

The article includes commentary from friends, former colleagues and critics of the 55 year-old-Lampert, including former Sears Canada CEO Mark Cohen (now a Columbia Business School professor). It covers Lampert’s creation of hedge-fund ESL 25 years ago–the fund manages money for David Geffen, the Ziff Publishing family and a few other high-profile clients—as well as his biggest market coups (namely AutoZone and AutoNation) and his current management of Sears Holdings.

In what is reported as Lampert’s first one-on-one, first-person interview in 15 years, the article also shares an account of Lampert’s terrifying 2003 kidnapping in Greenwich, CT, “before the week during which the finishing touches were to be put on the Kmart reorganization,” and sheds new light on the motivation behind and outcome of that life-changing event.

The article states, “Now that Amazon is eating Sears’s lunch, Lampert is faced with his latest challenge: staving off a Sears Holdings bankruptcy, and he is using every corporate-finance strategy in the book.” It reports that he has made billions of dollars of loans to the company, has announced the closing of approximately 300 stores since the beginning of 2017, and has sold the Craftsman line of tools to Stanley Black & Decker for about $900 million.

Lampert ended the interview by telling Vanity Fair, “If I didn’t believe that this company could be transformed still—the window is definitely shrinking—but if I didn’t believe that, I would try a different path. But I don’t know what that path exactly would be. It’s not a question of giving up or not giving up.”