Second Marlboro College campus sale falls through


By Jacob Seitz, Staff Writer

Democracy Builders will retain control of the former Marlboro College campus, according to its founder Seth Andrew, after it was purportedly sold to Vermont-based education company Type 1 Civilization Academy, setting up a possible legal battle over the Vermont campus. 

The arrangement between educational nonprofit Democracy Builders and Type 1 was not as concrete as previously reported, Andrew said during an invite-only Zoom call Tuesday when the cancelation was announced. 

Andrew declined The Beacon’s request for comment. 

After due diligence was done by Democracy Builders’ legal team, the group pulled out of the deal, according to the Brattleboro Reformer.

“We were engaged, not married,” Andrew said during the Zoom call.

Democracy Builders entered into a purchase and lease agreement with Type 1 last month, in the hopes of offloading the campus’ estimated $1.2 million yearly operating cost. Degrees of Freedom—a hybrid college education model created by Democracy Builders and Seth Andrew—was still set to use the rural campus, located in the foothills of the Green Mountains in southern Vermont. 

Under the terms of the deal, Type 1 was to operate the campus, completing renovations and maintenance. In January, Andrew and Democracy Builders reportedly relinquished all liability from the grounds via a quitclaim deed, which transferred the entire property to Type 1. A new quitclaim deed was filed this month by Democracy Builders, transferring the property back to themselves. It is unclear who the legal owner of the campus is at the moment.

Adrian Stein, who operates Type 1, told the Reformer that Andrew and Democracy Builders “erroneously released pre-signed quitclaims” and “repurposed these instruments to re-convey the property back to themselves.”

Stein, an elusive Canadian businessman who agreed to purchase the campus, wanted to host cryptocurrency conferences on Potash Hill, according to sale documents obtained by The Beacon.

The issue of campus ownership may end up in court, unless an “equitable settlement” can be reached, Stein said.

“I am reasonably certain that we will prevail and that we will retain our full and legitimately conveyed ownership rights to this magnificent property,” he told the Reformer in an email after the announcement. 

With Democracy Builders now retaining ownership, Andrew said the Degrees of Freedom program—which is still slated to start on the campus this fall—will have to rely heavily on philanthropy to remain in operation. The program would need 500 students enrolled, all paying the full $9,000 tuition, to break even, Andrew said in the Zoom call. Currently, 150 students are expected to attend the first fall session, according to Degrees of Freedom Vice President of Talent Karen Reece, who spoke on the Tuesday Zoom call. 

Andrew stated in February the money saved due to Type 1 leading upkeep would go to student support for the higher education program. 

Democracy Builders purchased the campus—once valued at $10 million by Emerson—in July for $1.725 million in cash and debt the day before the Emerson-Marlboro merger was finalized. 

The deal with Type 1, which was approved by the Vermont Attorney General, was worth $9.4 million, according to documents obtained by The Beacon. It included $2.5 million in cash, $2.5 million in escrowed prepaid rent, another $2.5 million as a mortgage-backed structured donation, and $1.5 million in Type 1’s takeover of lease obligations to the Marlboro Music Festival. Democracy Builders would have also received $416,000 in rent abatement.