- Associated Press - Thursday, March 28, 2019

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - The state attorney general’s office has delayed the pending sale of a New Jersey music college to a Chinese company, echoing concerns raised in a lawsuit seeking to stop the deal.

In a letter filed in state Superior Court Wednesday, the state said Rider University hasn’t fully answered questions about the sale of Westminster Choir College, including the reasons for the sale, what it will do with the proceeds and whether a foreign conglomerate is an appropriate buyer.

Lawrenceville-based Rider last year announced an agreement to sell the choir college to subsidiaries of Beijing-based Kaiwen Education for $40 million.

Two lawsuits oppose the sale. A suit filed by faculty, alumni and donors alleges the sale violates a 1990s merger between Westminster and Rider and could lead to Westminster’s ultimately being closed or moved from its site in Princeton.

The attorney general’s office has the duty to represent the public’s interest in charitable matters. The donation in the 1930s of the land where the choir college now sits created a charitable trust, the attorney general’s office wrote Wednesday.

In response to a court’s request for a recommendation on the sale, the attorney general’s office sent Rider officials a list of 49 questions last June but didn’t receive a reply until January. That reply consisted of partial responses to two questions and confidentiality concerns about many of the inquiries, according to Wednesday’s letter.

“Due to Rider’s six-month delay in producing documents and eventual production of documents so heavily redacted as to hamper review, the Attorney General’s review of the sale is incomplete as of this date and the State is not yet able to make a recommendation,” Assistant Attorney General Jean Reilly wrote.

Rider became the trustee of the property after the 1992 merger, according to the letter. The attorney general’s office is probing whether any sale of the property would violate the terms of the trust and whether Rider fulfilled its fiduciary duty in pursuing the current sale.

A Rider spokeswoman said Thursday the university is preparing a response to the letter.

“The University will carefully review the letter and respond to the claims and issues through the court proceedings,” spokeswoman Kristine Brown wrote in an email. “We look forward to the Superior Court of New Jersey resolving the issues in dispute after all the parties have had the opportunity to be heard.”

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