Britain's Booker Prize lives on with new sponsor

LONDON (AFP) – Britain’s most prestigious literary prize will revert to being as known as the Booker Prize this year after securing a new sponsor, it announced on Thursday (Feb 28).

The annual award for novels, which has been known as the Man Booker since 2002, has struck a sponsorship deal with the charity Crankstart, the Booker Prize Foundation said.

Investment firm Man Group announced the end of its 18-year partnership with the prize, which honours writers from English-speaking countries whose work is published in Britain and Ireland.

Crankstart has committed to five years of initial funding, with the option of renewing for a further five years, the foundation added in a statement.

“We are thrilled that The Booker Prizes have found such marvellous philanthropic supporters in Crankstart, whose founders share our vision and values,” said Ms Helena Kennedy, chairman of the foundation’s trustees.

“With its support, we look forward to developing initiatives for The Booker to reach new audiences of every generation and background around the world.”

Crankstart was established in 2000 by British venture capitalist Michael Moritz – who provided early backing for firms including Google and Yahoo! – and his wife Harriet Heyman.

Mr Moritz, who was born in Wales but is now based in the United States, was a journalist before moving into the world of technology investment, while Ms Heyman is a former journalist and a novelist.

“The Booker Prizes are ways of spreading the word about the insights, discoveries, pleasures and joy that spring from great fiction,” he said in a statement, noting the couple are avid readers.

The new arrangement will begin on June 1, meaning this year’s award handed out in October will be called the Booker Prize for Fiction.

A second prize open to authors of any nationality and awarded annually in May, will adopt its new name – the International Booker Prize – in 2020.

The winner of the main award currently receives £52,500 (S$94,100), although the bigger prize is seen as a spike in sales which invariably follow.

Previous winners include V.S. Naipaul, Iris Murdoch, Salman Rushdie and Ian McEwan among others.

The prize, launched in 1969, was only open to novelists from Commonwealth states until it began permitting those from other English-speaking countries to enter in 2014.

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