Sears Holdings (NASDAQ: SHLD) stock was falling today for the second day in a row following news yesterday that Fairholme Capital Management founder Bruce Berkowitz was stepping down from the board. Berkowitz did not provide a reason for his decision, saying only that he wished "the company and its associates all the best as Sears Holdings continues to execute on its strategic priorities." His fund had been Sears' second-largest shareholder after the retailer's own CEO Eddie Lampert, and Berkowitz had been one of the stock's biggest boosters.
Shares lost 11.5% yesterday and were down 5.5% today as of 12:17 p.m. EDT.
Berkowitz's exit from the board seemed to confirm fears that the end may be near for Sears as the company has been bleeding cash since 2010 despite numerous efforts to stay afloat. Separately, according to Bloomberg, Berkowitz also announced that he was shutting down his Fairholme Partnership fund and distributing the holdings to investors, including 3.14 million shares and warrants. Fairholme Capital Management had owned 27% of the Sears' shares outstanding.
As recently as June, Berkowitz had argued that Sears' real estate was worth $90-$100 a share after Amazon.com's acquisition of Whole Foods, but the news that Berkowitz is quitting the board at the end of the month and dissolving one of his Sears holding funds is something of a white flag, though he is retaining some Sears shares for himself. I'd expect his investors to sell some of their stock, further pushing the share price down as the chances of the stock going to zero continue to increase. It looks like another vicious cycle for Sears.
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