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HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. -- Sears Holdings Corp. announced lateMonday that CEO Louis J. D'Ambrosio is stepping next month due to healthissues involving his family.

The company, which operates Searsand Kmart stores, said D'Ambrosio will be replaced by company chairmanand its largest shareholder, Edward Lampert. D'Ambrosio will remain onthe board until the company's annual meeting in May.

The nature of the health issues affecting D'Ambrosio's family was not disclosed.

Ina statement, Lampert said D'Ambrosio led Sears Holdings during a timeof rapid industry change to become a more customer-focused company.Changes implemented under D'Ambrosio include giving sales staff almost15,000 iPads and iPod Touch devices so they can research products andhelp customers check out wherever they are in a store. It's alsoimproving displays and adding more high-tech washing machines and otherappliances.

"The board greatly appreciates Lou's strong leadershipin accelerating the transformation of Sears Holdings, and we understandand respect his personal decision to step down," Lampert said.

D'Ambrosiobecame Sears Holdings CEO in February 2011. He was previously presidentand chief executive officer of Avaya Inc., a communications company.Before joining Avaya, D'Ambrosio spent 16 years at IBM Corp.

Sears Holdings has been plagued by a yearslong decline in sales at its Sears and Kmart stores.

Lastyear it announced it is moving forward with plans to spin off itsHometown and Outlet stores as well as some hardware stores into aseparate publicly traded company. The move is part of its effort torestore profitability by aggressively cutting costs, reducing inventory,selling off some assets an

d spinning off others.

But itssales are still declining. It said Monday that in the nine-week periodending Dec. 29, sales at its stores open at least a year fell 1.8percent, largely due to sales declines in consumer electronics at bothSears and Kmart. The period included the crucial holiday season - whenretailers can make up to 40 percent of annual revenue.

Sales atstores open at least a year is a key metric for retailers because itexcludes revenue at stores that recently opened or closed.

Searsalso gave an update on its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings. It said itexpected to report a loss between $2.64 and $3.40 per share for thequarter ending Feb. 2. Excluding one-time items, it forecasts a profitof between $1.25 and $2 per share.

Sears operates more than 2,600 stores in the U.S. and Canada.

Sharesin the Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based company rose nearly 2 percent intrading Monday before D'Ambrosio's departure was announced. In the past12 months, they have risen almost 58 percent.

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