NEW YORK — The Spiegel Group Inc. has retained an outside firm to look into the possible sale of its Newport News Inc. subsidiary.

The bankrupt Downers Grove, Ill.-based parent of Eddie Bauer said Tuesday it has directed Miller Buckfire Lewis Ying & Co., a New York-based investment bank, to solicit parties who might be interested in acquiring the catalog and e-commerce marketer of moderate women’s apparel.

“The decision to gauge market interest in one of the company’s assets is a normal part of a Chapter 11 proceeding,” said interim chief executive officer Bill Kosturos in a statement. “We will evaluate the level of interest, taking it into consideration as we work to develop a plan of reorganization.”

Spiegel has shuttered five Newport News outlets since its bankruptcy filing in March.

The move follows widespread market speculation that L.L. Bean was considering the potential acquisition of some or all of Eddie Bauer’s assets, including the nameplate, customer list and warehouses. As reported, Spiegel so far has maintained that Bauer is not for sale, but in April said it would close 60 of its 529 stores, in addition to some outlet and clearance operations.

In 2001, the last fiscal year for which figures are available, Spiegel said Newport News’ revenues fell 6.4 percent to $448.9 million, with apparel accounting for 90 percent of total sales.

For the second quarter ended June 28, Spiegel posted a net loss of $146.6 million, or $1.11 a diluted share, against a year-ago loss of $56.1 million, or 42 cents. The bulk of this year’s loss was attributable to $84.4 million in reorganization costs, mostly related to store closures. Net revenues for the period fell 21.9 percent to $472.9 million from $605.6 million a year ago.

In its most recent monthly operating report filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Spiegel registered a net loss from operations of $38.3 million on net revenues of $109.1 million for the the four weeks ended July 26. The firm’s net loss from operations excluding reorganization costs was $16.2 million. Total revenues included net sales of $99.2 million and $9.9 million in revenues from other operations. Spiegel listed total assets of $969.8 million and total liabilities of $1.77 billion.

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