An item in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch about the ongoing Sears bankruptcy saga caught my attention. The headline reads, “Sears Staves Off Liquidation; Stores to Remain Open.” The clearers subtext to the article was relief that an icon of American retailing would not be facing an immediate and ignominious demise, despite the fact that Sears has been all but dead for quite a long time.
To me, this begs the question of whether anyone is really well-served by Sears’ zombie status. Creditors are still on the hook, employees may receive a paycheck or two more, but the end seems in sight, and everyone merely delays reckoning with the inevitable as there is exactly zero reason to believe that Sears can once again be a vital and vibrant player in retail. Would we be, on net, better off to just get it over with in a rational and orderly process—sort of like a form of hospice for corporations?
The same question can be asked about any number of private schools, especially those in declining markets where there is a surplus of seats. Painful as it may be, would some schools be better served by liquidating and contributing assets to a like-missioned peer? And what role should associations play in helping broker these difficult conversations within boards?
I get it: no board wants to be the last board, but as with Sears, maybe there could be some value in knowing when to say when.