Ace Hardware and Centerbridge look set to acquire Sears’ home services unit

First reported as an exclusive by Reuters.com, Ace Hardware Corp and investment firm Centerbridge Partners LP are together eyeing an offer for bankrupt Sears Holdings Corp’s SHLD.PK home services division that would compete with an expected bid from Chairman Eddie Lampert.

With the deadline for initial offers in a bankruptcy auction for the home services business approaching, Sears is also negotiating with Lampert’s hedge fund, ESL Investments Inc, on a potential deal to acquire stores and businesses that would aim to keep the 125-year-old retailer operating as a going concern.

The Reuters report did not give a value for a potential offer from Centerbridge and Ace, which has more than 5,000 stores globally. Earlier this year, ESL offered to buy parts of the home services division with a collective enterprise value of $500 million.

Lampert, who stepped down as chief executive officer when Sears filed for bankruptcy protection Oct. 15, is the company’s largest creditor and shareholder. ESL’s takeover bid for Sears is initially expected to eclipse $2 billion, an amount that would repay senior lenders, according to the report.