February 22, 2018

Rider Names Buyer of Westminster

By Anne Levin

Rider University’s Board of Trustees has revealed the identity of the company with which they have been negotiating to buy Westminster Choir College, Westminster Conservatory of Music, and Westminster Continuing Education, for $40 million.

The board has signed a non-binding term sheet with Beijing Kaiwen Education Technology Co., Ltd, a Chinese firm that owns the Kaiwen Academies, two K-12 international schools in Beijing, for the transfer of ownership of the three entities. “This major step forward will ensure that the choir college and its entities remain open in Princeton, NJ,” reads a press release from Rider president Gregory Dell’Omo.

“This is the beginning of an exciting new era for Westminster Choir College, its faculty, staff and students,” he said. “Kaiwen Education put forth an impressive proposal rooted in their sincere interest in the Westminster brand and in keeping the institution as a part of the Princeton community. We are eager to continue collaborating with Kaiwen Education to develop a binding agreement, the next step in this process.”

In 2017, Rider’s Board of Trustees chose Kaiwen Education to acquire Westminster and maintain the campus in Princeton. The selection was the continuation of a process begun in March 2017 with outreach to approximately 280 institutions. The University retained PwC Corporate Finance LLC as its exclusive financial advisor for the partnership process. The University has worked closely with Kaiwen Education and outside consultants to share detailed information and negotiate a non-binding term sheet that was acceptable to both parties.

“From the very beginning, the Board has remained deeply committed to our Guiding Principles, including a desire to find a partner who would preserve and enhance the Westminster brand, mission and history,” said Robert S. Schimek, ’87, chairman of Rider’s Board of Trustees. “The completion of the term sheet is a definitive sign of progress and a clear declaration that Westminster will continue operating in Princeton.”

According to the press release, the Kaiwen Academies, operated by its parent company, Kaiwen Education, offer international education from grades 1-12, with focus in several areas including arts education and sports training. “Kaiwen Academies features top-rated teachers, an American teaching structure, a combination of Chinese and American curricula, and teaching philosophies and methods that strive to foster students’ arts literacy and international vision through well-rounded education.”

To assist with the transition, Kaiwen Education also formally announced the hiring of two consultants recommended by Westminster to provide assistance in the next stages of this process. Catherine (Kitty) Jarjisian, an accreditation consultant who is retired from a career in music education and administration, will lead and coordinate efforts to obtain accreditation with the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), the accreditation body charged with maintaining national standards for undergraduate and graduate degrees and other credentials for music and music-related disciplines.

Larry Livingston, currently the chair of the Department of Conducting at the University of Southern California’s Flora L. Thornton School of Music, will serve as the project manager and liaison to guide this process to a successful conclusion. “He will also work with Westminster and Kaiwen Education to assure they receive all necessary regulatory approvals such as state licensure, accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, and federal recognition,” the release said. “Livingston has a distinguished career including roles as the vice president and music director of the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston; dean of the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in Houston and dean of the USC Thornton School of Music where he is now chair.”

Plans are currently being finalized to bring representatives from Kaiwen Education, as well as Livingston and Jarjisian, to campus in the near future to meet the Westminster community.

According to Dell’Omo, the $40 million will allow for Rider to invest in priorities outlined in its recently adopted strategic plan.

“Details of the term sheet remain confidential,” the release said. “However, Kaiwen Education intends to make offers of employment to faculty and staff, with terms to be determined, as well as continue committed student aid at the time of closing in the form of endowed scholarships, tuition discounts and other grant obligations. More information will be forthcoming as the entities finalize a binding agreement.”