Jewish Boarding School That Closed Without Warning Transfers Control Of Campus To Chinese Company

    The American Hebrew Academy, a prestigious Jewish boarding school that closed unexpectedly in June after a long financial death spiral, has transferred control of its campus to a Chinese educational facility, the Forward has learned.

    In publicly available documents formalized on Monday, American Hebrew Academy (AHA) transferred financial liability of its scenic 100-acre property in Greensboro, North Carolina, to Puxin Limited, a publicly traded Beijing-based firm that provides study-abroad test tutoring services to help Chinese students perform well on college entrance exams, according to its Bloomberg profile. Puxin Limited also entered into a lease agreement with AHA for the campus and its buildings.

    In June, the Forward reported that AHA had in recent years taken out two short-term loans in order to cover operating costs. One loan for $25 million was taken out in 2015, from a bridge loan firm in New York City called Titan Capital. Documents reviewed by the Forward suggest that Puxin Limited has now assumed liability for the school, having entered into a loan agreement with AHA for $26 million.

    AHA closed unexpectedly just days after the end of the previous school year, shocking students and faculty. Faculty who spoke to the Forward said they understood that the school was not in sound financial shape, but were not aware that the situation was dire until Glenn Drew, the school’s CEO, informed them of the closing at a routine end-of-year staff meeting.

    The school was founded by a Jewish insurance magnate and a patron of Jewish Greensboro, Chico Sabbah. Sabbah, however, inadvertently doomed the school when he and his aviation insurance firm was implicated in an insurance fraud scheme. The $500 million he had planned to bequeath to the school as an endowment was wiped out, and the school was also sued for money it had previously received from Sabbah.

    A source close to the school told the Forward that they were not aware of any formal announcement of the transaction.

    Drew did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment.

    Correction, 9/13/19, 10:00 a.m. — A previous version of this article erroneously reported that AHA sold its campus to Puxin Limited. Puxin Limited has assumed financial liability for AHA’s campus and buildings. Publicly available documents suggest that AHA will remain the owner, and will rent the campus and buildings to Puxin.

    Correction, 9/16/19, 9:43 p.m. — In a previous version of this article, the last line referred to a formal announcement of a “sale,” which is not accurate.

    Ari Feldman is a staff writer at the Forward. Contact him at feldman@forward.com or follow him on Twitter @aefeldman

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