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Win or lose, Sears’ chairman may still come out on top

NEW YORK — As Sears teeters on the brink of collapse, one man stands at the center of the fight for the future of the iconic retailer.

Eddie Lampert plays several often-conflicting roles in what could be the final chapter for the company that began as a mail order watch business 132 years ago. He’s been chairman, CEO, landlord, lender, and largest shareholder — all at the same time. If the company survives, he wins. If it ends up liquidating, he also wins.

The fate of Sears — and its Kmart brand — is likely to be decided Monday at a bankruptcy auction in New York. There, those who are owed money by Sears will consider Lampert’s last-ditch plan to preserve 425 stores and 50,000 jobs.