Sears CFO Resigns

Five-year plan? Make that five months: Signed on in September, Craig Monaghan will leave the retail giant at the end of January.
Stephen TaubJanuary 22, 2007

Sears Holdings announced that Craig T. Monaghan, who signed on as executive vice president and chief financial officer on September 1, will leave the company at the end of the month.

Monaghan, who has been working out of the retail giant’s Chicago office, will return to Florida where his family still resides, the company added.

Chief administrative officer, executive vice president, and director William C. Crowley, who served as CFO until Monaghan’s arrival, will resume those duties on an interim basis as the company launches a search for a finance chief.

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Monaghan seemed to have been a favorite of Sears chairman Edward Lampert. The billionaire’s hedge fund, ESL Partners, owns a sizable stake in car dealer AutoNation, where Monaghan served as CFO for more than six years before his move to Chicago, and Lampert has served on the AutoNation board since 2002.

Monaghan, who was previously the finance chief of women’s Internet network, has also held finance positions at General Motors, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Reader’s Digest. He is no stranger to stressful leadership roles: In 1980, he commanded a tank unit in South Korea and had the authority to launch missiles if North Koreans fired on his platoon.

Monaghan may have been unprepared to go to battle with the Sears chairman, however, as speculation continues to swirl about how Lampert plans to spend the retailer’s $2 billion cash hoard. Some observers have speculated that Lampert is turning Sears itself into something of a hedge fund, or perhaps a second Berkshire Hathaway.

Citing Credit Suisse analyst Gary Balter, the Chicago Sun Times reported that Sears’ cash flow may reach $4 billion for fiscal 2007, which ends January 31. The retailer continues to raise cash by selling parking lots and gas stations at some Kmart stores, the newspaper noted.

Earlier this month, added the Sun Times, Sears was rumored to be mulling a bid for embattled retailer Gap, or one of its units, Banana Republic.