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The Sears store Gateway Mall is among more than 500 that are being auctioned off, with the company hoping to find a bidder that will keep them open.

Lincoln's Sears store may stay open — if the company can stay alive through bankruptcy.

The store at Gateway Mall, along with a Sears store in Omaha and Nebraska's last remaining Kmart store in Alliance, are among about 500 stores the company hopes to sell.

According to a letter filed last week with the U.S Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York from Lazard, an investment banking firm handling the auction process for Sears, the company is seeking bids from companies who want to keep the company in business as well as those who would liquidate it.

The company is seeking what's called a "stalking horse" bid — essentially a first bid to set the floor and hopefully attract other companies to bid higher.

Potential bidders have until Dec. 5 to make a stalking horse bid, and the company has until Dec. 15 to designate a stalking horse bidder. If at least one is made by that date, then other bidders will have until Dec. 28 to make a rival bid. Assuming the company gets enough bids, an auction would be held Jan. 14.

At least one bidder is likely to emerge.

ESL Investments, the hedge fund run by Sears Chairman Edward Lampert, had been in talks with the company about buying a large group of stores, The Chicago Tribune reported. At a court hearing last month, an attorney for Sears said ESL was a “likely bidder.”

Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month. It is trying to reorganize, close unprofitable stores and emerge as a stronger company after years of large losses and store closings.

Sears closed one of its Omaha locations in September and announced earlier this month that its store in Grand Island is among 142 locations that will close as part of the bankruptcy.

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On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.


Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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