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Sears appoints high-tech exec as new CEO; Q4 profits fall but beat Street

Hoffman Estates, Ill. -- Sears Holdings Corp. has named a former technology executive as its new chief executive. The struggling retailer’s three-year search for a permanent CEO came to an end with the announcement on Wednesday that it has appointed Lou D’Ambrosio as chief executive and president. He will assume the office and join Sears’ board on Feb. 24.

D'Ambrosio, 46, served as CEO of telecommunications software company Avaya from 2006 to 2008, before stepping down for medical reasons. Prior to that, he spent 16 years at IBM, holding executive posts in sales, software and global services. D'Ambrosio, who has no direct retail experience, has been working as a consultant to Sears' board of directors for the past six months.

D’Ambrosio takes the company's reins from W. Bruce Johnson, who has been serving as interim CEO. Johnson had replaced Aylwin Lewis, who stepped down in February 2008 amid falling sales and profits. Johnson will become executive VP of Sears’ off-mall businesses and supply chain.

The company is controlled by billionaire financier Edward Lampert, who acquired Kmart in 2003 and later bought Sears, Roebuck & Co. to form Sears Holdings.

In a statement, Lampert said: "From the beginning of our CEO search, we were determined to find a leader with information and technology experience who could catalyze the transformation of our portfolio of businesses in the context of the evolution of the retail industry that is occurring more broadly. Having worked closely with Lou and observing his business acumen, compelling leadership style, performance orientation and Customer First approach, I am confident that Lou is the right person to lead and transform Sears Holdings. Lou is a proven winner and I am excited to have him as the leader of our company."

In other news, Sears reported that its fourth quarter net income dropped 13% to $374 million, from $430 million a year earlier. However, adjusted results topped Wall Street estimates and signaled the retailer’s first profit since the first quarter.

Revenue edged down 1% for the quarter ended Jan. 29 to $13.14 billion, but beat Wall Street’s expected $13.02 billion.

Same-store sales fell 1.2%, dragged down by a 4.5% drop-off at Sears. The Kmart arm continues to gain strength, as same-store sales for the period rose 2.5%.

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