April 24 (Reuters) - Jeff Stollenwerck, a 15-year veteran of Sears Holdings Corp and president of its real estate business, will soon be departing the U.S. department store operator, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.
Stollenwerck's departure comes as billionaire Sears CEO Eddie Lampert said in a letter this week that his hedge fund, ESL Investments Inc, would be interested in acquiring the struggling retailer's real estate, including its $1.2 billion in debt, Kenmore appliances brand and parts of its home services business.
"We appreciate (Jeff's) service leading the real estate business unit and wish him well in his future endeavors," Sears said in a statement. "Our strong bench of talent for our Real Estate business unit and among the leadership team will ensure a smooth transition."
Stollenwerck was instrumental in Sears' real estate financings and deals, which over the years included a spin-out of its 235 best properties into a publicly traded real estate investment trust, Seritage Growth Properties, some of which the retailer then leased back.
Sears had 1,002 stores operating across the U.S. as of Feb. 3. It owned 307 of them. Sears has also listed 16 of its stores, mostly at malls in the Midwest and Texas, for sale online, asking for bids by May 1.
"I've enjoyed my time with (Sears) and working closely with Eddie and the other leaders," Stollenwerck said in a statement. "After 15 years, I'm ready for a new challenge and I wish all of Sears Holdings the very best in the future."
Stollenwerck worked in Kmart's real estate division before its merger with Sears in 2005. Before then, he worked at Lampert's hedge fund ESL as a vice president of research. (Reporting by Jessica DiNapoli in New York Editing by Phil Berlowitz)