Rider University has ‘multiple proposals’ for Westminster Choir College

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Westminster Choir College

By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
Rider University said it has received “multiple proposals” from suitors that have varying interests in its Westminster Choir College, the world- renowned music school in Princeton that is up for sale.
The university said this week that its consultant Pricewaterhouse Coopers was in touch with roughly 280 parties to discuss their interest in one of the three categories Rider officials had set to be a “partner,” either to acquire Westminster and its campus, acquire Westminster alone, or acquire only the more than 20-acre-campus. Rider President Gregory G. Dell’Omo, in June, indicated Rider had “received multiple proposals in all three categories.”
The university will not disclose the identities of the suitors or where they are from to protect the confidentiality of the process, said Rider spokeswoman Kristine A. Brown on Wednesday.
“So we’re just not going to share all those kind of details at this point,” she said. “We will at some point, but just not now, because we’re still in the middle of the process.”
She said school officials working with the consultant are reviewing the proposals, in an analysis that will occur through the summer, to winnow the field to finalists.
But for students — current and prospective — and faculty and staff, they appear to be in a type of holding pattern until Rider officials make up their mind. For its part, the university understands the impact the decision will have.
“The process is being expedited as quickly as possible,” Brown said. “We’re working very hard to make a decision quickly so that we can make an announcement, hopefully, in the early fall.”
The Princeton school district has confirmed that it has made an offer, at a time of enrollment expansion that is having school officials looking for more room.
“The Rider process is confidential,” Superintendent of Schools Stephen C. Cochrane said Wednesday in a text message without elaborating on the district’s offer.
The uncertain future of Westminster has led a group of Westminster alumni, faculty and others to sue Rider in New York federal court to block a sale. The Coalition to Save Westminster Choir College in Princeton is trying to get a judge to step in and force Rider to either surrender control of Westminster to a new governing board or compel Rider to find a merger partner.
Bruce I. Afran, the attorney for the coalition, said Wednesday he had seen a list, as of May, of all the entities who had expressed interest. Except for a China-based business school developer, he said, all the rest were real estate development companies.
“They did not have any expressions of interest from anyone from any university or college who’s willing to buy Westminster at the prices they were offering, which was around $40 million,” Afran said in declining to explain how he saw the list. “So the problem is, they have not sought a merger partner for Westminster, they’re only looking to sell Westminster to anybody at commercial prices.”
For her part, Brown said Rider has always said its “primary goal was to find an entity who wanted to continue operating Westminster in Princeton and keep the school in Princeton.”
“And the fact that we received proposals from entities in that category is certainly encouraging,” she said.
Afran, however, noted that a college does not “buy” another college, but would rather merge with it, the way Rider and Westminster did in the early 1990s.
“So what Rider is doing is it’s offering to sell Westminster to other colleges,” he said, “but naturally no one is responding positively because colleges don’t buy colleges.”
He said he did not believe Rider’s claims that it had received proposals from bidders wanting to continue operate Westminster in Princeton.
“So the only parties that are expressing interest in buying are those who want to tear down the school and build something else,” he said.
For the municipality, the town finds itself as an observer to a process that will impact the future of more than 20 acres of land, located near public schools and a residential area. Council President and acting Mayor Jenny Crumiller said Wednesday that she would prefer Westminster to stay.
“It fits well where it is and it’s a good neighbor and it contributes music to the community — just priceless,” she said.