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TheStreet Open House

Can Sears' New CEO Revive The Company?

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- After three grueling years of searching for a successor, Sears (SHLD - Get Report) has finally hired a new CEO -- a former tech executive with no retail experience.

Lou D'Ambrosio, previously head of Avaya, a telecommunications company, succeeds Bruce Johnson, who had been operating as interim CEO since 2008. D'Ambrosio has been working with Sears over the past six months as a consultant to the board of directors on strategic and operational initiatives.

>>Click here to take our Sears poll

Prior to joining Avaya in 2002, D'Ambrosio spent 16 years at IBM (IBM).

With billionaire investor Eddie Lampert at the top, Sears has spent the last several years cutting costs, tightening inventory and operating under a managerial merry-go-round. Pretty much, Lampert has done everything but the action analysts have deemed necessary to improve the business: revamping its merchandise mix.

Now, with a non-merchant at the helm, the question is, can Sears still revitalize its lackluster business?

In a letter to investors, Lampert said D'Ambrosio is the right man for the job due to his "information and technology background, leadership style and experience in leading and transforming a Fortune 500 company."

D'Ambrosio led Avaya as it went private, "delivering attractive returns to its shareholders," Lampert wrote. This could be interpreted that Lampert's real goal for Sears is to take the company private, not to bring it back to retail dominance.

"Sears remains a once- iconic retailer heading downhill with nobody applying the brakes," says Craig Johnson, president at Customer Growth Partners. "They may have changed out the driver, but the back seat driver Lampert -- who controls the brakes, gas, steering wheel and maintenance -- is staying the same."

Johnson likens Sears' move to that of Home Depot (HD - Get Report) back in 2000, when the home improvement retailer appointed Bob Nardelli, a General Electric (GE) and industrial executive, "into a fast-changing, consumer battle-place, hugely more competitive than the cozy world of enterprise selling, only to yield disappointing results and dispirited employees."

Of course, D'Ambrosio's appointment could also be viewed as a push by Lampert to move Sears into the 21st Century. Sears has been heavily investing in its online business, a difficult task after being largely known for its catalog.

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