WhistlePig Whiskey Founder Buys College Campus for $4.55M

Raj Bhatka promised to resurrect the shuttered college, likely as a nonprofit "work college" dedicated to the trades.

In January 2019, Green Mountain College in Vermont closed up shop after the 185-year-old private school was "no longer financially viable." 

The liberal arts college was the largest employer in the small town of Poultney. When the college closed, the town, population 3,339, suffered as most of the 150 faculty and staff and more than 400 students left town.

Today, the 155-acre campus has a new owner. Raj Bhakta, founder of WhistlePig Whiskey, who won the property at auction with a $4.55 million bid. The campus includes 26 buildings with 500,000 square feet and a biomass plant.

Bhakta’s bid was approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the primary lien holder, which was owed up to $20 million.

After the auction, Bhatka promised to resurrect the college, likely as a nonprofit "work college" dedicated to the trades. Bhakta says, "In America, people really aren't being trained to do anything anymore."

In 2008, Bhakta founded WhistlePig Whiskey, and led the company to become one of the leading farm-to-bottle rye whiskies in the world.

Last year, the board of directors forced him out of his own company, and he sold his shares for an undisclosed price.

The board pushed him out following “mounting evidence of his repeated unethical and unlawful behavior.” They accused Bhakta of "taking millions" for himself, misrepresenting the company and repeated drunken driving.

Because of the skills gap in the U.S., approximately 2.4 million positions will go unfilled from 2018 and 2028, according to Deloitte. Hopefully, Bhatka's new school can help fill the shortfall.

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