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HomeBusinessQuest University could become taxpayer-owned

Quest University could become taxpayer-owned

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Bob Mackin

Quest University’s land and buildings may soon have a new owner, which could mean the Squamish institution that suspended classes in April will reopen. 

The 55-acre property was listed for sale by NAI Commercial in late February, a day after the private university’s board announced the end of instruction. The land was assessed last year at $15.08 million and buildings $54.17 million, but real estate agent Marshall MacLeod said the asking price was only available for bidders who signed a non-disclosure agreement. The offering brochure has since disappeared from the NAI website and MacLeod has not responded for comment. 

An executive with the seller did not deny a deal is near.

Quest University Canada in Squamish, B.C. (Quest)

“We hope for the best resolution for the future of Quest and the community of Squamish,” said Charles Lee, director, strategy and business development for Primacorp Ventures Inc., said by email. “We are pleased that the parties are working together and discussions are moving forward.”

Primacorp paid $43 million for the land and university buildings to rescue Quest out of court protection from creditors in December 2020. Quest sought protection in January of that year after its biggest lender, the Vanchorverve Foundation, demanded repayment of $23.4 million. Vanchorverve is one of dozens of charities registered by Vancouver lawyer Blake Bromley.

Could the private university become public? 

Capilano University president Paul Dangerfield and vice-president of strategic planning Toran Savjord did not respond to phone and email queries about whether it offered to buy the land and buildings. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills initially referred a reporter to Quest. Pressed to answer whether taxpayers money could be invested to resurrect Quest, Lisanne Bowness refused to answer. 

“We have no further comment at this time,” Bowness said. “We hope to be able to share more information in the coming days.”

There could be a complication. Another charity set-up by Bromley, the Eden Glen Foundation, has lost its Canadian Revenue Agency charitable registration, as per the Canada Gazette on July 29. 

In a June 15 letter, published on researcher Vivian Krause’s blog, director general of charities Sharmila Khare wrote that the foundation gifted almost $5 million to a numbered company, a non-qualified donee, when it sold one of Quest’s original land parcels in April 2018. 

“When the foundation sold the beneficial ownership interest of Lot 12 to the corporation for $2 million (that is, $4.745 million less than the property’s fair market value), it provided an unacceptable private benefit to the corporation,” said Khare’s letter. 

Instead of assessing sanctions, CRA chose to revoke Eden Glen’s registration due to severity of the non-compliance.

Primacorp bills itself as Canada’s largest provider of private post-secondary education with 15,000 annual enrolments, including the CDI College chain, and has subsidiaries in seniors’ housing, commercial real estate and self storage in Canada and the U.S. 

In July 2021, Chung reportedly paid $42 million for the Belmont Estate, the 22,000 square foot Northwest Point Grey mansion formerly owned by philanthropists Joe and Rosalie Segal.

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