Eddie Lampert and his ESL Holdings hedge fund are offering to buy the rest of Sears for up to $4.6 billion in cash and stock.
The Sears chairman and ESL own just under half of the Hoffman Estates company, according to FactSet. Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October, weighed down by years of declining sales and massive debt.
ESL Holdings said in a regulatory filing Thursday that its nonbinding offer for roughly 500 remaining Sears stores will keep about 50,000 employees working. The offer is subject to due diligence and ESL's ability to get financing, among other things.
“ESL believes that a future for Sears as a going concern is the only way to preserve tens of thousands of jobs and bring continued economic benefits to the many communities across the United States that are touched by Sears and Kmart stores,” the firm said in a prepared statement.
Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October, saying it would shutter 142 unprofitable stores in the hopes that it could stay in business.
The pace of the deterioration has been rapid.
As recently as 2012 the company operated 4,000 sears and Kmart stores. Including the closings after the bankruptcy filing, Sears would have just over 500 functioning locations left.
The company still employs about 68,000 people.