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In January 1981, Brennan was elected chairman and ceo of the Sears Merchandise Group. In 1984, he led that group to its most profitable year ever, earning $905 million. He was also part of the senior executive team that handled the acquisition of Dean Witter Reynolds Inc. and Coldwell, Banker & Co., marking Sears' entry into financial services.
For those efforts, in 1984 Brennan was promoted to corporate president and chief operating officer. Two years later, he was elevated to chairman and ceo.
He retired from Sears and its board of directors in August 1995 and was succeeded by Arthur Martinez, who Brennan recruited to the company and who accelerated the group's restructuring, including shutting down its legendary catalogue.
After Sears, Brennan stayed active in the corporate world, serving on several major boards, including McDonald's Corp., Exelon Corp., AMR Corp. and American Airlines. He was also very active in the world of academia as chairman of DePaul University and Marquette University at different times.
Survivors include his wife, Lois, and six children.
"We were saddened today to learn of the passing of Sears' former chairman and ceo Edward Brennan. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Brennan family during this difficult time," said Sears spokeswoman Kimberly Freely.