January 10, 2010
Why we are watching: Edward Lampert, the billionaire hedge fund manager, calls the shots as the company's chairman and its majority shareholder. But that doesn't mean there aren't other executives worth watching.
Among the latest crop: Scott Freidheim, the son of former Sun-Times Media Group Inc. CEO Cyrus Freidheim Jr. and the right-hand man to former Lehman Brothers CEO Richard Fuld.
Freidheim's plum job as Fuld's chief administrative assistant evaporated when the investment bank collapsed in the fall of 2008. A few months later, Lampert found a spot for the fellow Greenwich, Conn., resident at Sears. He created the post for Freidheim as head of operating and support businesses and made the Lehman refugee one of the retailer's highest-paid executives.
While Sears is struggling to find the right formula, Lampert's interests remain in deal-making, which makes Freidheim, 44, a natural ally. The 17-year Lehman veteran knows the language of Wall Street and is comfortable carrying out orders.
Freidheim reports to interim CEO W. Bruce Johnson, a logistics expert and Lampert loyalist who followed the billionaire from Kmart to Sears in 2005. (Lehman Brothers advised Lampert on the Kmart-Sears merger.) Johnson has served as Sears' interim CEO for the past two years.
Sears has been conducting a CEO search for more than two years to no avail. Lampert doesn't want a retailer at the helm, said one person close to the executive search.
Could the post go to Johnson? Freidheim? No one?
Since joining Sears in January 2009, Freidheim, a Kellogg MBA, has been learning the retail business. In 2010, he may be ready to do more.
-- Sandra M. Jones