ELLEN TRACY UPDATE: Is Liz Claiborne Inc. the frontrunner to buy Ellen Tracy? According to sources, negotiations are continuing for Claiborne to buy the privately held bridge sportswear firm headed by Herb Gallen, and a deal could be imminent. "We don’t comment on rumors," said a Liz Claiborne spokeswoman. Gallen couldn’t be reached for comment. Sources said Claiborne’s Dana Buchman division and Ellen Tracy would certainly give the firm a one-two punch in the bridge sportswear arena.BEAUTY PILL: The European Commission cleared Swiss Food group Nestle SA’s business partnership with French cosmetics giant L’Oréal to develop a line of "cosmeceuticals," dietary supplements for hair, nail and beauty care. As reported, L’Oréal and Nestle are to form a new company called Laboratoires Inneov, based in France, to create and market the products globally next year. Avon entered the cosmeceuticals category in May 2001, joining such manufacturers as Aveda.

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