Five years ago, Eddie Lampert was seen as the next Warren Buffett. Having gained control of bankrupt retailer Kmart Corp. in 2003, the businessman snapped up Sears. Roebuck & Co. for $11 billion.
Wall Street hailed the combination, expecting big things from Lampert. "Sears has its own $2.7 billion cash reserve that will grow as Lampert wrings inefficiencies out of the aging department-store chain," a 2004 BusinessWeek article gushed. "Lampert says the combination will save $300 million annually in costs and add $200 million to profits by promoting each chain's brands in the other's stores."