Byline: David Moin

NEW YORK — The race to buy Barneys New York is about to move further along in at least one camp: The Neiman Marcus Group has instructed the Bank of Boston to review Barneys’ books, according to sources.
As reported in these columns on page one, Oct. 8, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman’s are eyeing the bankrupt Barneys chain, not only for its prime locations, but for its rich lineup of designer labels. Both companies are said to be actively wooing Barneys’ creditors and other parties in the bankruptcy case.
While Neiman’s has already signed a confidentiality agreement, it could not be learned when its bankers will actually start their review.
Sources note that in July, Dickson Concepts, the Hong Kong based retailer, signed a confidentiality agreement and in less than six weeks made a formal “expression of interest” in investing in Barneys. That expression put a $350 million pricetag on Barneys domestic operation, plus a value to be negotiated for Barney’s Asian license, which could be worth around $200 million.
Neiman’s has downplayed its interest in Barneys, saying it’s not a serious potential investor — at least at this point. And while the review process is giving Neiman’s valuable insight into one of its prime competitors, its real purpose is to weigh the possibility of a serious bid for Barneys.
A source suggested Bank of Boston could now be serving as Neiman’s adviser on Barneys, and will make a recommendation on what strategy to pursue. If Neiman’s decides to go after Barneys aggressively, the bank could wind up playing a larger role, even developing a financial package, raising debt or equity, for a Neiman’s investment in Barneys.
A spokeswoman at the Bank of Boston declined comment.
Neiman’s officials were not available for comment.
Saks Fifth Avenue, the most publicly aggressive suitor for Barneys so far, and Holt Renfrew of Toronto, have signed confidentiality agreements, giving them access to scrutinize Barneys’ financials and operations. And, as reported, Bernard Arnault’s Paris-based LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton is said to be watching the Barneys case carefully, but late last week an LVMH official continued to deny any interest in taking over the chain.
Barneys filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January and is embroiled in a dispute with Isetan, its Japanese partner, on whether Isetan is an equity partner or the landlord of the Barneys flagship stores, on Madison Avenue, in Chicago and Beverly Hills.

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