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Sears Canada paid $53M to advisers during last month of insolvency process

Sears Canada shutters its final stores Sunday after months-long liquidation (The Canadian Press)

During the height of Sears Canada’s liquidation process, the company paid nearly $53 million in fees to legal and financial advisers and other professional support.

Documents released this week by FTI Consulting, the group overseeing Sears Canada’s insolvency process, showed that between Dec. 6, 2017 and Jan. 6, 2018, several payments were made to cover legal and advisory costs, including:

– $14,147,000 to law firm Osler Hoskin & Harcout LLP, representing Sears Canada and its operating subsidiaries,
– $14,091,000 to BMO Nesbitt Burns for its role as financial adviser,
– $5,055,000 in legal counsel fees for FTI Consulting, and
– $238,000 for representing counsel and financial advisers for employees

While the fees are fairly typical as part of a company closing, the cost is still somewhat staggering when some of Sears Canada’s outstanding financial commitments are considered. The Globe and Mail  points out that when Nortel Networks Corp. went through bankruptcy proceedings, its total spending on professional fees was more than US$1 billion.

Sears Canada was able to spend less than forecasted in some areas over the period, including only $6.6 million (instead of $11.1 million) on rent and property taxes, on account of some stores closing earlier than anticipated. But its liquidation sales didn’t pay off the way Sears Canada had hoped, falling short of projected sales targets over the busy holiday season. The company took in $58.6 million in sales during that time period, shy of the forecast $75.3 million.

Through the next three months, Sears Canada anticipates bringing in a further $66.9 million, according to the report. Combined with the $84.2 million in the company coffers as of Jan. 6, it still falls short of covering all the current financial obligations, including the $266.8 million shortfall of the Sears Canada employee pension plan.

Not all of the money on the books added up, either. FTI Consulting is currently investigating more than half a billion dollars of controversial dividend payments from previous years. The “potential transactions of interest” include a $102 million dividend payment to shareholders in 2012, a $509 million dividend payment to shareholders in 2013, and the surrendering of the exclusive Craftsman trademark in March 2017.

Documents related to the transactions are currently under review by FTI Consulting, and will report on on its progress and findings in its next report, which will come out after the Apr. 27, 2018 monitoring period deadline.

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