Kmart, Sears Shareholders to Vote on Merger March 24

Kmart Holding Corp. (KMRT) and Sears, Roebuck and Co. (S) on Monday said that they had set special meetings of their shareholders on March 24 to vote on their roughly $11 billion merger deal.

The retailers also said Sears' Chief Financial Officer Glenn Richter, who had been expected to become CFO of the combined company, would leave after the merger is complete.

William Crowley, a senior vice president for finance and board member at Kmart, was appointed the new CFO of the combined company, which will be called Sears Holdings Corp.

Crowley is also the president and chief operating officer of ESL Investments, the hedge fund run by Edward Lampert (search), Kmart's billionaire chairman who spearheaded the merger. The fund is the largest shareholder in both Kmart and Sears.

When the merger was originally unveiled in November, both Crowley and Richter had been in charge of leading an integration team for the combined company. In Monday's statement, the companies said Richter was leaving to pursue other professional opportunities.

"In assessing his career options, he felt he could better pursue his goals outside the company," Sears spokesman Chris Brathwaite told Reuters.

The new company will become the third-largest U.S. retailer. It will have about $55 billion in annual revenue and nearly 3,500 retail stores. Sears and Kmart will continue to operate separately under their respective brand names.

Lampert will become chairman of the new company. The merger is expected to lead to annual savings of about $500 million within three years.

The companies said the joint proxy statement on the merger will be mailed to both companies' shareholders starting on Tuesday. Shareholders of record at the close of business on Jan. 26 are entitled to vote on the merger proposal at next month's stockholder meetings.

The meetings will be held at Sears' headquarters in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, which will become the headquarters for the new company after the merger. Kmart is currently based in Troy, Mich..

The retailers also on Monday announced a new stock symbol, "SHLD," for the combined company.

Sears said earlier this month that it would switch its stock listing to the Nasdaq market following the merger, ending its nearly century-old affiliation with the New York Stock Exchange (search). It will continue to trade on the NYSE until the deal is complete.