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Alabama A&M’s bid to buy Birmingham Southern campus fails
Alabama A&M’s bid to buy Birmingham Southern campus fails

Alabama A&M University’s proposal to buy the shuttered campus of Birmingham-Southern College has failed because its all-cash offer was “significantly lower” than the highest bid, according to documents obtained by AL.com.

Officials at Alabama A&M, a historically black university in Huntsville, said they accepted Birmingham-Southern’s decision to consider “other offers” for the 192-acre campus in west Birmingham.

“As a public institution, we have a responsibility to the taxpayers of Alabama to demonstrate fiscal discipline in our offering as we operate under certain constraints,” said Shannon Reeves, vice president of government affairs and external relations at Alabama A&M.

“In the absence of a deal in Birmingham, we will shift our resources to our main campus in Huntsville as we have experienced record enrollment in the 2023-2024 academic year,” Reeves added.

Birmingham-Southern spokeswoman Virginia Gilbert Loftin declined to comment on Alabama A&M’s offers, but confirmed that negotiations with Miles College are ongoing.

“We reviewed what was presented to us and signed a letter of intent with Miles,” she said, referring to the memorandum of understanding, a document that confirms plans to enter into a legally binding agreement between two parties.

“I think it speaks for itself that we have a letter of intent with Miles,” she added.

Miles College signed its letter of intent on June 19 as part of negotiations to purchase the campus, as first reported by the Birmingham Times. The private, historically black college in Fairfield has about 1,200 students enrolled, according to the latest figures from 2022.

It is unclear how much Miles College has proposed for the purchase. Spokespeople did not respond to requests for comment.

More: Birmingham-Southern College

However, if the current negotiations between Birmingham-Southern do not come to fruition, Alabama A&M officials say they are willing to renew their offer.

“AAMU remains committed to acquiring Birmingham-Southern College,” said Carlton Spellman, the university’s vice president for business and finance. “Therefore, if for any reason an agreement on the higher bid cannot be reached, we are open to resuming negotiations.”

Since the private liberal arts college closed on May 31, there has been uncertainty about the future of the campus. Together with buildings and equipment, it is worth about $65 million, according to an audit and tax records.

The proposal from Alabama A&M State University was originally called “Operation Southern Comfort” and was then renamed “Alabama A&M University at Birmingham,” according to documents obtained by AL.com.

On May 6, Alabama A&M President Daniel Wims signed a letter of intent offering $52 million in cash or cash equivalent and the assumption of Birmingham-Southern’s debt in exchange for the campus and certain assets. In press statements, Alabama A&M touted the proposal as having “the potential for one of the largest HBCU expansions in the country.”

On June 21, Alabama A&M sent a second offer letter to Birmingham-Southern president Daniel Coleman. That offer was for $35.5 million, according to the letter obtained by AL.com. A&M officials quoted a much higher figure of $65.5 million to the press – $35.5 million in cash and $30 million for “maintenance.” But that letter makes no mention of the $30 million.

“Although you indicated that the bid was significantly below your highest bid, I wanted to let you know that Alabama A&M remains interested and committed to acquiring the Birmingham-Southern College campus,” Spellman said in the letter. “Therefore, if for any reason the higher bid is not accepted, Alabama A&M would welcome the opportunity to resume our negotiations.”

Alabama A&M’s vision for the Birmingham campus would have made the campus at 900 Arkadelphia Road the first public, historically black university in the metropolitan area and would have moved the school and its athletic program much closer to the headquarters of the annual Magic City Classic.

Alabama A&M projected that 1,000 students would enroll at the Birmingham campus by fall 2025 and 3,500 by 2029. In its proposal, the university stated that the campus would expand Birmingham’s workforce by emphasizing academic programs in health care and the sciences, as well as other professional programs such as business administration and construction management.

Mike Cason contributed to this report.

By Aurora