Long-time tech executive Lou D'Ambrosio has taken the helm at Sears Holding with the goal of reversing the department store's downward financial trend and possibly boosting its online business.
"From the beginning of our CEO search, we were determined to find a leader with information and technology experience who could catalyze the transformation of our portfolio of businesses in the context of the evolution of the retail industry that is occurring more broadly," said Sears chairman Edward Lampert in a statement.
Reaction to the move has been mixed at best.
From Bloomberg: "He is good with technology. He's not a merchant," Brian Sozzi, an analyst at Wall Street Strategies in New York, said in an interview yesterday. The question is "what does Sears stand for. I don't think this hire brings any clarity on this question." Sears, which operates stores under the Sears and K-Mart brands, hasn't posted an annual gain in revenue since fiscal 2007. Annual same-store sales, a key measure of growth, haven't increased since the fiscal year ended January 2000. "
From TheStreet.com: "Now, with a non-merchant at the helm, the question is, can Sears still revitalize its lacklustre business? D'Ambrosio led Avaya as it went private, "delivering attractive returns to its shareholders," Lampert wrote. This could be interpreted that Lampert's real goal for Sears is to take the company private, not to bring it back to retail dominance."
From CNBC: "The knee-jerk reaction is that hiring a non-merchant after a three year search is just another shake your head moment in the recent history of Sears, which at best can be described as flailing and at worst as failed. You can only imagine the public embarrassment Sears must be to Eddie Lampert, an otherwise successful hedge fund manager, whose winners include AutoNation and AutoZone. It was Lampert, you may recall, who engineered the takeover of Sears in 2004 with Kmart, which he then controlled. It has since been viewed as one of the classic examples of two turkeys not making an eagle. "
From MarketWatch.com: "Sears is a big company long heading downhill with nobody applying the brakes," said Craig Johnson of Customer Growth Partners. "And now they've changed the driver, but the real back-seat driver, who controls the brakes, gas pedal, steering wheel and maintenance, is staying the same." Johnson added the new executive may have a tougher time succeeding in "an environment much more competitive and fragmented than the cozy world of enterprise selling."
D'Ambrosio was CEO of Avaya from 2006 to 2008 and in 2007 took the company private, huge move at the time. Prior to that he spent 16 years at IBM in a variety of executive positions.
Most recently, D'Ambrosio has served as a consultant to Sears and non-executive chairman of Sensus, a clean technology firm. He is on the Board of Trustees of the Jackson Laboratory. D'Ambrosio received his MBA from Harvard Business School and Bachelor of Science from Pennsylvania State University.