Planet Princeton

Rider University signs agreement to sell Westminster Choir College to Chinese company

Rider University officials announced today that the a sale agreement has been signed with a Chinese group to purchase Westminster Choir College, the Westminster Conservatory and Westminster Continuing Education for $40 million.

Kaiwen Education will operate the choir college. A subsidiary of Kaiwen Education called the Beijing Wenhuaxuexin Education Investment Limited Company and a subsidiary of Beijing Wenhuaxuexin Education called Princeton Westminster International, LLC, will operate the Westminster Conservatory and Westminster Continuing Education.

Gregory Dell’Omo, the president of Rider University, has deflected criticism from faculty and students who have protested the sale of the choir college. in a written statement issued today, he said the preserving Westminster Choir College “has always been a priority for the board,” and that the process of finding a buyer was “deliberate and thoughtful.”

Robert Schimek, the chairman of the Rider University Board of Trustees, said the contract is the result of months of hard work and negotiations that will allow the board to transfer Westminster Choir College to a partner that can continue its legacy, “and more strongly positioning Rider to pursue its strategic plan for long-term financial stability and growth.”

Five entities expressed interest in maintaining and operating Westminster Choir College in Princeton. According to Rider officials, no U.S. higher education institution expressed interest in operating Westminster in Princeton, and only one U.S. education institution expressed interest in moving Westminster to its campus, but the institution later declined to pursue the arrangement. A group of alumni wanted to create an entity that could take over the choir college and run it as an independent institution. A few lawsuits were filed to try to stop the sale.

Rider and Kaiwen Education entered into a non-binding agreement in February. Since then, Rider and representatives of Kaiwen have been negotiating a binding agreement. The Rider Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve the agreement on June 19, and representatives of both institutions signed the agreement on June 21. The closing date for the sale will be no later than July 1, school officials said.

Rider will continue to operate Westminster Choir College during the upcoming academic year while working closely with the buyer to recruit students for the 2019-20 academic year, school officials said. The buyer has  agreed to invest $16 million in Westminster over a five-year period for working capital and capital expenditures.

Key terms in the sale include offering employment and comparable benefits to existing Westminster full-time faculty, priority adjuncts, and staff members. The buyer also has committed to operating Westminster at the current campus for no less than 10 years, and to “substantially maintaining the current academic offerings for no less than five years.” The buyer is also obligated to continue student aid, and to work with Rider on a transition plan for Westminster operations. The agreement and transaction are subject to a series of internal, governmental and regulatory approvals that Rider and the buyer will coordinate over the next year., school officials said.

“This contract sets the foundation for a process that creates opportunities for Westminster to evolve into a renewed institution with a strong future,” Schimek said. “This includes plans to broaden and expand Westminster far beyond what Rider is able to do, and attract more international students.”

Dell’Omo said Kaiwen Education’s mission is to sustain and grow Westminster Choir College’s reputation as a world-class institution, “while maintaining it as an artistically pre-eminent, academically rigorous, and fiscally sound institution. It is our hope that the entire Westminster community can come together to help bring this process to a successful conclusion so the legacy of Westminster can carry on far into the future.”

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Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

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