The Beijing offices of Avenues: The World School are cavernous yet sleek, occupying a high-rent complex designed to look like a dragon - a seven star hotel is in the "tail," Avenues, like IBM, is in the "head," overlooking Beijing's Olympic Park, Bird's Nest Stadium and Water Cube, the crown jewels of 2008's $44 billion Olympics construction boom.
But, like the derelict structures left over from the Olympics building craze, the Avenues office is largely empty. Although the school had planned to open what was to be only its second campus worldwide in September 2016, partnerships have unraveled, permits lag, and nobody will put a date on when the school will open its doors to students able to afford the $40,000-plus tuition fees.
Fortunately, Avenues' American backers, led by mid-sized private equity firms, seem to possess a quality rare for such entities: patience.
"We are not advertising we are not trying to be out in the community yet," said Mike Levy, who will head the Avenues Upper School in Beijing and is overseeing the opening of the campus in the meantime. Levy, who has written an acclaimed book on teaching in China, told CNBC he doesn't know when the school will open. "To open a school at the scale that we plan, you have to be really careful and really thoughtful."
Players ranging from local private equity funds including Baring Private Equity Asia, Qiming and CITIC, to early stage investors such as ZhenFund, have been dabbling in the financing of private schools in mainland China, many of them drawn by potentially vast demand for international-style curriculum from Chinese parents eager to prepare their children to venture overseas for university.