Writing about Sears Holdings Corp.’s bankruptcy is a bit like dusting off a corporate obituary that’s been in the works for years: Sears Holdings, the former Sears, Roebuck & Co. that once dominated retailing in the United States, succumbed to a long illness Monday.
Sure, a bankruptcy filing is not quite a death knell. Sears can still reorganize in bankruptcy court and could even have a chance at survival. Hundreds of stores could stay open, and thousands of jobs could be saved. Or it could wind up in liquidation. Too soon to tell.
But, the story of Sears’ failure is one of corporate hubris, failed financial engineering, an inability to respond to competitors — and even a waste of public money. Well before Sears filed for bankruptcy, it was clear Illinois taxpayers would not see a full return on the $250 million in tax breaks and incentives the company got for moving into the Prairie Stone complex in Hoffman Estates.
The bankruptcy is the latest corporate catastrophe in a line of once-powerful Chicagoland businesses that dates back to at least the early 1980s.