Tears as America’s top choir college is sold to a Chinese steel company

Tears as America’s top choir college is sold to a Chinese steel company


norman lebrecht

February 22, 2018

Rider University has pushed through the sale of Westminster College for $40 million:

Rider University’s Board of Trustees announced today it has signed a non-binding term sheet with Beijing Kaiwen Education Technology Co., Ltd, a Chinese firm that owns the Kaiwen Academies, two prominent K-12 international schools in Beijing, for the transfer of ownership of Westminster Choir College, Westminster Conservatory of Music, and Westminster Continuing Education. This major step forward will ensure that the choir college and its entities remain open in Princeton, NJ.

That is what they want you to know.

What they don’t want you to know is that Kaiwen changed its name two months ago from Jiangsu Zhongtai Bridge Steel Structure Company, as it entered negotiations with Rider. Until then it had no background in education.

Rider’s president was so desperate to be show of Westminster that very little diligence was done into the buyer.



  • frank says:

    What does ” to be show of” mean?

  • anon says:

    Lang Lang’s father will be the new head of the piano department.

    The new motto for the school will be:

    “You have missed nearly two hours of practicing, and you can never get them back! Everything is ruined! You’re a liar and you’re lazy! You are horrible. And you have no reason to live.”

    • Sue says:

      As complete an anti-Snowflake set of comments as I’ve ever read or heard. See the horrible effect they had upon Lang Lang and how his self-esteem and prospects were diminished.

      • Richard says:

        Do you realize he has been unable to play with two hands for nearly a year now? There is talk of him permanently retiring from the stage. Are you certain that type of training had nothing to do with it?

        • Petros Linardos says:

          Do you know what Lang Lang’s ailment and how is it caused?

        • pooroperaman says:

          Perhaps he do concerts with just one hand and call himself ‘Lang’.

          • Timothy Lester says:

            Prokofiev and other composers wrote an impressive amount of literature for just one hand. I heard Leon Fleisher play one of them with the Baltimore symphony. It was so amazing that the listening ear would never know only one hand was playing.

  • DrummerMan says:

    If they have “no background in education,” then why do they own two international schools in Beijing. So what if they changed their name? Why not give them the benefit of the doubt before trashing them? I assume that the University trustees asked for language saying that Westminster would continue to function as before. Let’s wait for a while before we declare war.

    • ANON says:

      The parent corporation only bought the schools (K-12 schools founded in 2015) in December of 2017. Story here: https://www.reuters.com/finance/stocks/002659.SZ/key-developments/article/3728509

      It’s confusing because Jiangsu Zhongtai Bridge Steel Structure is the same company as Beijing Kaiwen Education Technology Co, the current name of Westminster’s buyer.

      Still, they officially have no background in Higher Education, even if they dubiously have some sort of education experience.

    • common decency says:

      Their “experience” in education began in 2016. Benefit of the doubt? Come on.

      12/6/2016 Rider University announces it is considering sale of Westminster Choir College.
      12/23/2016 Jiangsu Zhongtai Bridge Steel Structure announces plans to acquire 20% stake in education investment firm.
      2/16/2017 Jiangsu Zhongtai Bridge Steel Structure announces plans for education firm acquisition and two educational firms establishment.
      3/28/2017 Rider University confirms it will not move Westminster Choir College to Lawrenceville campus. Now seeking buyers with the assistance of PricewaterhouseCoopers. Chair of Rider board of trustees is a retired PwC partner.
      5/4/2017 Jiangsu Zhongtai Bridge Steel Structure completes establishment of educational tech JV in Beijing with partners, and owns 20 percent stake in it.
      7/11/2017 Rider University announces it is reviewing offers from buyers for Westminster Choir College.
      7/27/2017 Jiangsu Zhongtai Bridge Steel Structure’s share trade to halt from July 28 pending announcement related to asset restructuring.
      8/17/2017 Rider University’s board votes to accept an offer to buy Westminster Choir College. Buyer to remain anonymous and offer confidential.
      9/8/2017 Jiangsu Zhongtai Bridge Steel Structure to sell engineering unit, share trade to resume.
      10/31/2017 Rider University issues layoff notices to all Westminster Choir College personnel. All contracts will expire summer 2018, including all unionized faculty in local AAUP chapter.
      12/11/2017 Jiangsu Zhongtai Bridge Steel Structure’s unit to buy stake in education investment firm.
      12/28/2017 Jiangsu Zhongtai Bridge Steel Structure to change company name to Beijing Kaiwen Education Technology.
      2/21/2018 Rider University announces Beijing Kaiwen Education Technology as buyer of Westminster Choir College.
      2/21/2018 Beijing Kaiwen Education Technology To Invest $40 Mln To Buy Three Colleges From Rider University.

  • Olassus says:

    This is good news. Gets incompetent Rider out of the picture. Keeps the Westminster entities operating, and on music. Puts Chinese bucks to positive use (make music, not war).

    Wouldn’t worry about the conglomerate’s setup or name. It’s probably just a senior figure there who is interested in diversifying. No harm.

    • Ben says:

      “Puts Chinese bucks to positive use (make music, not war).”

      Chinese rarely made war … last time China started a war was in 1949 (vs Taiwan’s Nationalist)

      • Eric Broomfield says:

        In October of 1950 China intervened in the Korean War. They engaged with US , UK and others forces under the UN.

    • Linda Blowney says:

      So they bought the land and the buildings. Westminster as a Choir College is dead, unless Princeton Theological Seminary’s lawsuit wins.

      • Nancy Protzman says:

        Westminster has not been sold. Too much misinformation has been published. Seashark’s comment is correct–there are too many things pending.

  • seashark says:

    The sale is not complete, and there are numerous legal challenges underway. This is not over.

  • Nancy Protzman says:

    Thank you to Seashark for your reply. I’d like to ask Slipped Disc to update their headline. WESTMINSTER HAS NOT BEEN SOLD–NOTHING IS FINAL. Yes, they have published the name of the “potential partner”, and the dynamics are interesting and are generating much speculation. But,. please CHECK YOUR FACTS.

  • Hailey says:

    It’s okay! The contacts that negotiate the sale of WCC include a binding agreement about the school. Westminster will stay open and be operated as a choir college. And we have two amazing people working to ensure accreditation is acquired. The buyer has expressed interest in maintaining our school and learning from it, and most of the students are hopeful for a smooth and efficient transition. That being said, we aren’t expected to have completely separated from Rider until summer 2019, so nothing is final.

  • Jane Nowakowski, faculty member at WCC says:

    Mr. Lebrecht,
    I join others here in asking that you revise your article and the assertion that Westminster Choir College has been sold — although a sale is being negotiated, IT HAS NOT YET TAKEN PLACE.

    For all readers, see this article for more information: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/02/26/faculty-speak-out-against-proposed-buyer-westminster-choir-college
    Click through on the included links for earlier articles that describe some of the earlier developments in this process.

    Additionally, see this recent post by the Rider AAUP chapter:

    • norman lebrecht says:

      A sale has been announced. So far, all attempts to overturn it have failed.

      • Jane Nowakowski says:

        The university’s own announcement says that “a non-binding term sheet” has been signed and that “there is more work to be done”. WCC has not yet been sold.

      • Nancy Protzman says:

        WESTMINSTER HAS NOT BEEN SOLD! All attempts to overturn have NOT failed–three lawsuits are in the works. Many details have not yet been worked out. Students, faculty, parents, alumni, donors and friends have bee living with this situation for over a year. We keep informed.

  • Joan Bernstein says:

    It was either this sale or the closure of WCC. Rider’s current president has no interest in what WCC does and simply wanted to extract money for it. Mid-term, Rider is likely in pretty serious trouble. It’s better to give WCC a chance with Kaiwen, then to simply close it.

    And, this i likely not the last of this sort of thing. It was fairly common knowledge that The New School was looking to sell off or shutter Mannes about six or seven years ago, with a clueless university president who was also just looking to extract dollars from a school he didn’t value or understand. I would keep an eye out on all such schools that are parts of larger universities with weak leadership and/or financial issues. WCC was not the last, but perhaps the first to be auctioned off to pay for overpaid university leader salaries.

  • B Callan says:

    High likelihood that this is a way to allow Chinese nationals to buy real estate in the US by parking their kids in a US school. The private schools in NJ all report they have more mainland Chinese applicants than they could ever screen, let alone educate. Why? Because if a Chinese kid is in a foreign school, Mom and Dad can take lots of money out of China and invest it in US real estate apparently. Maybe ex-Jiangsu Zhongtai Bridge Steel Structure will miraculously learn how to run a hallowed Choir College and a Conservatory in the United States in short order. More likely they couldn’t care less what the school is teaching, just that it is on a nice plot of land in the middle of a affluent town an hour from NYC. If the sale goes through, watch the make up of the student body and the tuition and fees for clues to what the company is really up to.

  • common says:

    Oh look! All these months later and the writer still has not corrected his LIE of a headline. What a hack.

  • still watching aghast says:

    It’s been WELL over a year now. Clearly the author of this article cares not for its accuracy nor damage caused to the reputation of the school which is NOT being sold to Kaiwen!