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Sears, Are You My Mother?

Most parents wish their children will grow up to be better off than they are. It's certainly worked out that way for Sears Holdings Corp., a retailer that traces its roots to the 1880s and which has set so many of its offspring free over the years, only to watch them grow into stronger entities.

Sears's castaways (some homegrown businesses, some picked up along the way) include Allstate Insurance, Discover credit cards, Dean Witter, Coldwell Banker, Lands' End and Orchard Supply Hardware -- and that's not even a comprehensive list. Looking back now, it's hard to believe some of these were ever part of this withering company, which now looks about how you'd expect a 130-something-year-old to look. Investors currently value Sears at $1.2 billion, compared with $25 billion only a decade ago.

As Sears bleeds money, CEO Edward Lampert has continued to find assets that could be sold off -- but those options are dwindling. The latest is its Craftsman tools brand: Sears announced Thursday that it's selling the business to Stanley Black & Decker Inc. for some $900 million (sort of).

Sears had just $258 million of cash as of October -- a near-record low -- versus $4.3 billion of debt. Ebitda was a negative $1.4 billion for the 12 months through October. Bloomberg's cash burn calculation shows that Sears can continue operating for about two more months using existing cash and near-cash resources without needing additional financing. The situation has looked...