Sears Names New CEO With Technology Resume

Sears Holdings has tapped longtime tech executive Lou D’Ambrosio as its new CEO, ending a three-year search. D’Ambrosio, who spent 16 years at IBM and more recently led Avaya as CEO, has been a consultant with Sears in recent months, and Chairman Edward Lampert said D’Ambrosio’s background makes him the right choice during a time when technology is changing the way retail operates. The Wall Street Journal (2/24)

It has taken three years, but Sears Holdings Corp. has finally settled on a new chief executive: Lou D’Ambrosio, a long-time technology executive who had been consulting with the company.

Mr. D’Ambrosio will oversee a department store chain formed in 2005 by hedge fund billionaire Edward S. Lampert’s merger of Sears and Kmart. He replaces W. Bruce Johnson, who had served as the Hoffman Estates, Ill., chain’s interim chief for three years.

Mr. Lampert, who controls a majority of Sears shares though his ESL Investments Inc. and is heavily involved in running the company’s daily affairs, had employed two executive-search firms since 2008 and pursued numerous candidates. But several prospects made it clear they were not interested, according to people familiar with the matter.

In a statement, Mr. Lampert said that he had been looking for a chief executive with technology experience due to the changes transforming retailing. “I am confident that Lou is the right person to lead and transform Sears Holdings,” he said.

Mr. D’Ambrosio, 46, spent 16 years at International Business Machines Corp., and most recently served as chief executive of business networks company Avaya Inc. before stepping down in 2008 for medical reasons.

Sears noted that Mr. D’Ambrosio had led Avaya as the company went private, “delivering attractive returns to its shareholders.” A spokesman declined to comment on the possibility that Sears might go private as well, calling it speculation.

Sears also declined to make Mr. D’Ambrosio available to comment. In a statement, he said he had been advising Sears for months, adding: “I have been impressed with the organization’s assets and its potential going forward.”

Among the prominent executives who were approached by Sears was Thomas G. Stemberg, a former Staples Inc. CEO, who said he had turned down a recruiter’s feelers about the job a few years ago.

“The whole notion of hiring a high-tech executive to run a retail company is absurd,” he said Wednesday. Sears declined to comment on his remarks.

Mr. Lampert has been pushing Sears to invest heavily in online initiatives, trying to turn a company that began as a catalog business in the 19th century into an Internet retailer for the 21st century. But Sears’s revenues have declined every year since Mr. Lampert combined Sears and Kmart. It said last month that as of the end of December, annual sales at stores open at least a year dropped 1.6%, making it likely that when the company discloses earnings Thursday it will report its fifth consecutive year of comparable-store sales declines.

The push, which has included launching a third-party marketplace where smaller firms can sell through Sears.com in exchange for giving Sears a cut of the proceeds, has succeeded in helping turn Sears into one of the nation’s largest online merchants, according to trade publication Internet Retailer.

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