- Jeb Wallace-brodeur
- New England Culinary Institute
Updated February 11 with additional background information from a prior Seven Days story.
Foodies in the market to buy a school will be keen to learn that the New England Culinary Institute is for sale. How much? NECI media contact Philip Stevens declined to say, but he noted that the price is negotiable.
The announcement, made via press release late last week, stated that interim president and CEO Richard Scaldini has "completed his service." It arrives amid rumors swirling in the local culinary community that the school lost other top board and executive brass last week and faces ongoing enrollment and accreditation issues.
In a March 2014 cover story, Seven Days chronicled struggles at NECI caused in part by shrinking enrollment, aging leadership and precarious finances. At that time, the for-profit culinary school was embarking on a three-year plan to boost revenues to buy out the founders and become a nonprofit.
Stevens denied any recent unplanned executive or board departures via phone on Monday, noting that Scaldini's contract was up.
The school has hired Cabot real estate adviser Michael Rushman to help broker the sale, and Stevens downplayed the school's for-sale status. "Really, it's not a significant change," he said, confirming that selling the for-profit culinary academy had been on the table since he started there more than two years ago. "We are just moving forward with Michael Rushman," Stevens said.
Other top school officials and Rushman did not immediately return calls for comment; the latter's office voicemail noted that he was "out of town on a business trip."
Stevens insisted that the NECI board and founder Fran Voigt will vet potential buyers, with an eye toward maintaining the school's legacy — and keeping it local. "One critical determining factor [in that process] would be keeping NECI in Vermont," Stevens said. "But beyond that, I can't really say."