Rider University has talked to 280 organizations and has received “multiple proposals” to buy Westminster Choir College and its 23-acre campus. In a letter to Rider faculty and students, president Gregory Dell’Omo wrote that the university has received proposals from three categories of buyer: those that want to buy the college and continue to operate it in its current location; groups that want to buy the college and relocate it; and groups that just want to buy the property.
The university has hired Pricewaterhouse Coopers Corporate Finance to conduct the search.
“A careful and detailed review of all initial proposals has been completed and select parties have been asked to refine their proposals as we move into the next phase of the process. To allow sufficient time for the Board to fully consider each of these amended proposals, it is likely that a final partner or partners will not ultimately be selected to move forward until the fall,” Dell’Omo wrote.
Rider is seeking to divest the college, which merged with Rider in 1992, as part of an effort to plug a hole in its budget, but a group called the Coalition to Save Westminster Choir College in Princeton has sued to stop the sale. In filing the federal lawsuit, the group’s attorney, Bruce Afran, argued that Rider is obligated to continue operating Westminster under the terms of the 1992 merger.
In the lawsuit, Afran alleged that Rider had solicited commercial entities for the sale, and that the only entities responding to Rider’s solicitation circular are real estate developers or for-profit commercial businesses that do not operate non-profit fine arts or liberal arts institutions of higher education. The suit named EPR Properties United States, Guanghua Education Group, Bloom, Garden Homes of Princeton, Weichert Development Company, CITIC Private Equity Funds, Lunar Capital Management Ltd., Toll Brothers, and the Vistria Group.
The suit seeks to block selling the college to a commercial entity, and claims that selling to one of these companies would violate the 1991 merger agreement. The lawsuit seeks a court order to require Rider to merge Westminster with another institution of higher learning that would continue to operate the college, which was founded in Ohio in 1926, and which has been in Princeton since 1937.