3/31/14 The Thunderbird School of Global Management is back at the bargaining table after an accreditor effectively quashed a proposed deal with Laureate Education Inc., which operates a network of for- and non-profit universities, last month.
On Monday Thunderbird’s president, Larry Edward Penley, said the deal with Laureate—which would have supplied much-needed cash and an avenue to expand abroad with Laureate’s 80-school network—won’t go forward as proposed.
While that doesn’t rule out an alliance with Laureate, the Glendale, Ariz.-based business school has contacted other institutions to signal it is again open to a deal, Dr. Penley said. Laureate has encouraged Thunderbird to reach out to other partners, according to its chief executive.
One official at a school that has been approached by Thunderbird in recent weeks said the leadership there worries that the business school is seeking a fast fix. “They were getting married to Laureate. They’re looking for another partner a week later,” the official said, adding that such haste makes that school “uneasy.”
The development is the latest twist in a saga that has exposed Thunderbird’s precarious position in the marketplace and led to open revolt among some alumni and trustees, who formed a separate alumni group to question the board’s decision-making process and attempt a rescue of the school.
Thunderbird ended fiscal 2013 with an $8.7 million loss, more than double its prior-year loss, and had $5.6 million in cash and short-term investments as of June 30, according to its annual report. That reflected a $2.7 million decline in tuition revenue and a 62% drop-off in contributions.
Once recognized as the premier M.B.A. program for global business, Thunderbird enrolled 1,041 students across about a dozen degree programs this spring—nearly 300 fewer students than it had in its full-time M.B.A. alone in 2000.
The next steps remain uncertain. The school started partnership discussions with several institutions, including Arizona State University, the University of Arizona, Hult International Business School and Middlebury College in late 2012, and has recently reconnected with some of those schools, according to people familiar with those discussions.
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