Mixed Blessings: Sears Taps New Finance Chief

Retailer is said to face “significant default risk” in the next one to two years.
David KatzOctober 14, 2016

Being promoted to CFO of a floundering big box retailer dubbed as a “significant default risk” is bound to be a mixed blessing. But that’s exactly the position Jason Hollar finds himself in today after Sears Holdings named him finance chief, replacing Robert Schriesheim.

Jason Hollar ¥ DELPHI CORPORATION executive photo shoot on Tuesday, October 18, 2011.

Jason Hollar Jason Hollar, CFO, Sears Holdings

Since October 2014, Hollar, 43, had been the holding company’s senior vice president of finance, overseeing financial planning and analysis, “the business finance relationship with centralized finance,” and procurement, according to a Sears Holdings press release.  

Before joining Sears, Hollar was the controller of Delphi Automotive. Howard Riefs, the department store company’s communications director, said the finance chief wouldn’t do interviews “until he settles into the new role.”

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In the press release, hedge fund magnate Edward S. Lampert, Sears Holdings’ chairman and chief executive officer, said that in Hollar’s time with the company, he’s “been focused on driving efficiencies and creating value as our company undergoes rapid change. His leadership and financial acumen are important skills as we accelerate our transformation and deliver for our members, associates and shareholders.”

On May 26, besides reporting a net first quarter loss of $471 million compared with a net loss of $303 million for the prior year first quarter, Sears announced today Schriesheim, would be stepping down “to focus on his other business interests and pursue other career opportunities.” He agreed to continue in the role until the company picked his replacement.

Thus, Schriesheim presided over the company’s August 26 second-quarter earnings call, in which he somehow found a bright spot as he reported an EBITDA loss of $191 million, which reported “an improvement of $35 million versus last year.”

The outgoing CFO also reported the company’s “objective to right-size, redeploy and highlight the value of our assets as we transition from a traditional network-based retailer to a more asset-light, member-centric integrated retailer….”

Even with a fresh-faced finance chief, the company’s outlook still isn’t all that brilliant. In a recent screening of the high-yield bond and leveraged loan universe as of Aug. 31, 2016, Fitch Ratings identified Sears as one of seven U.S. retailers “with significant default risk within the next 12–24 months.”