NEW YORK — An unlikely suitor is considering joining the bidding for Barneys New York: designer Elie Tahari.

According to the British newspaper The Mail on Sunday, Tahari is linking up with British investor Harold Tillman, who owns the retail chain Jaeger, to mount a possible bid.

A Tillman spokesman in London declined comment on the report, while a spokesman for Tahari said Tuesday, “This is more than a notional interest, but no decision has been made to pursue a bid.”

Barneys New York was put up for sale in late June by its owners, Whippoorwill Associates and Bay Harbour Management. As reported, the bidding for Barneys New York is into its second round — with such names as Neiman Marcus Group, Dickson Concepts and Federated Department Stores no longer in the running. As a result, it now appears more likely that the next owner of Barneys will be yet another financial player.

The high-end firm, with flagships on New York’s Madison Avenue and in Beverly Hills and Chicago and four Co-op stores, hired Peter J. Solomon Co. and Morgan Stanley as its financial advisers to explore “strategic alternatives,” including the sale of the company. A financial buyer for Barneys seems plausible, given market conditions in which recent deals have involved a number of investment banks and hedge funds with names such as Sun Capital Partners and Cerberus Capital Management LP, which together, recently picked up Mervyn’s from Target Corp. for $1.2 billion in cash.

— With contributions from Vicki M. Young

This story first appeared in the October 13, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.