Sears: this is how you go belly up

sinking ship

The parent company of Sears announced last week that Chairman Edward Lampert would shortly take over as chief executive, succeeding Louis D’Ambrosio, who is leaving for health reasons.

Lampert apparently has enjoyed a successful career: the Associated Press describes him as a hedge fund billionaire.

However, turning around Sears, which along with Kmart is under the umbrella of the Sears Holding Corporation, would appear to be a task of herculean proportions. The company has struggled mightily in recent years and, if personal experience is any indication, appears fully committed to foundering on the shoals of incompetence.

Case in point: About 10 days before Christmas, I decided to get my wife a recumbent bicycle as an early Christmas present. Recumbent bikes allow the user to recline while riding in place and are good good for cross-training.

Understanding that these items take time to put together, and that there’s no guarantee one would be in stock at a nearby store, my wife began scouring the Web.

After a bit of research, she found just the recumbent bike she wanted at Sears. Best of all, it was located at the nearest of the three Sears stores in our area, just a couple of miles away. My wife phoned the store and the Sears’ representative assured her that the company computer showed there was indeed one of the desired models in stock.

I set off a short while later to pick it up, and things proceeded to deteriorate quickly. When I got to the store I had to wait for several minutes before I was able to track down a salesperson in the fitness area.

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SCBT to acquire troubled bank company

SCBT Financial Corp., one of the few South Carolina to undertake a strategy of acquisition over the past few years, said Tuesday it would acquire Easley-based Peoples Bancorporation.

The $28.4 million all-stock transaction will be the Columbia-based financial services company’s fourth acquisition in less than two years.

The merger will connect the Upstate and Georgia markets for SCBT, the parent company of South Carolina Bank & Trust, according to The State.

Peoples is a three-bank holding company that operates Peoples National Bank, Seneca National and Bank of Anderson.

The story in The State claimed that Peoples had been profitable in recent years, but information filed by the company with the US Securities and Exchange Commission shows a different picture.

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How GM almost bought Ford Motor Co.

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of one of America’s great entrepreneurs and the founder of General Motors, William Durant.

Durant gained famed as the founder of GM, a multi-brand holding company with different lines of cars designed to appeal to consumers of varying economic means.

Durant was the grandson of a former governor of Michigan and his chief interest was business. Instead of attending college he choose to go to work in his grandfather’s lumber business, one of the largest of the many large lumber mills in Flint, Mich, according to Arthur Pound’s book The Turning Wheel: The Story of General Motors Through Twenty-Five Years, 1908-1933.

He then branched out by opening his own insurance agency before he was 21.

“That suited him, because insurance was something you could go out and sell,” Pound writes. “No waiting around for customers to come to you, as in the store. An almost feverish activity possessed him. ‘Billy’ Durant above everything needed action. While possessed of a notable faculty for remaining calm in the midst of alarms, he seemed to require dramatic tension in business. Yet he had also the power of concentrating intently on work.”

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Tidelands restates earnings, posts $6.1M loss

Tidelands Bancshares announced Friday that its restated earnings for the three months ended June 30 showed a loss of more than $6.1 million, up from the original figure of $3.9 million reported in August.

Tidelands said last week it would restate its earnings for the quarter ended June 30, 2011, due to an approximate $2.2 million increase in its allowance for loan losses and related provision for loan losses.

The restatement came as a result of a recently completed joint examination of subsidiary Tidelands Bank by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the SC Board of Financial Institutions, according to information filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

As a result, officers with the Mount Pleasant-based company determined last week that the previously issued unaudited consolidated financial statements for the second quarter should no longer be relied upon.

Tidelands reported a loss per share of for the quarter $1.58, compared to the originally reported loss per share of $1.02, according to SEC filings.

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Troubled Tidelands to restate earnings

Tidelands Bancshares, the troubled parent of Tidelands Bank, expects to restate its earnings for the quarter ended June 30, 2011, due to an approximate $2.2 million increase in its allowance for loan losses and related provision for loan losses.

The restatement comes as a result of a recently completed joint examination of Tidelands Bank by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the SC Board of Financial Institutions, according to information filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

As a result, officers with the Mount Pleasant-based company determined last week that the previously issued unaudited consolidated financial statements for the second quarter should no longer be relied upon.

Tidelands will file an amendment to its Form 10-Q for the quarter as soon as “reasonably practicable,” it said in its filing.

The joint examination of the Bank by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the South Carolina Board of Financial Institutions began in July.

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Blue Ridge Savings Bank closed by regulators

Troubled Blue Ridge Savings Bank of Asheville, NC, was closed by the NC Office of Commissioner of Banks Friday, which appointed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. as receiver.

The FDIC then entered into agreement with Thomasville-based Bank of North Carolina to assume all of the deposits of Blue Ridge, according to an FDIC press release.

Blue Ridge, founded by former US Congressman Charles Taylor in 1978, had 11 branches and a little more than $160 million in total assets as of June 30. That’s down sharply from three years earlier, when Blue Ridge had nearly $270 million in assets.

Problems in the real estate market hurt Blue Ridge, according to the Asheville Citizen Times.

Blue Ridge was cited for “unsound practices” and “violations of laws and regulations in late 2008” by state and federal regulators, according to media reports.

The closing marks the second Tar Heel State bank to be shuttered this year. The other was also based in Asheville: The Bank of Asheville, on Jan. 21, 2011.

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Bank of America: Expose fraud at own risk

Good ol’ Bank of America – not exactly known for being a people-friendly institution to start with – managed to shoot itself in the foot in royal style Wednesday.

US authorities ordered the Charlotte-based megabank to pay $930,0000 to an employee who was fired after exposing fraud at the company’s mortgage unit, Countrywide Financial.

The US Labor Department said in a statement that the employee, whose name was not disclosed, was illegally fired after he led “internal investigations that revealed widespread and pervasive wire, mail and bank fraud” at Countrywide, Agence France-Presse reported.

“This employee showed great courage reporting potential fraud and standing up for the rights of other employees to do the same,” David Michaels, a senior Labor Department official, said in the government’s statement.

But Bank of America couldn’t quit while it was behind, expressing disappointed with the Labor Department’s ruling and saying it would appeal the decision.

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