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Man Booker Prize loses its sponsor; foundation says prestigious literary awards will continue

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U.S. author George Saunders wins the 2017 Man Booker Prize for fiction at the Guildhall in London.
(Chris Jackson / AFP/Getty Images)

The Man Booker Prize, the British literary award that’s considered one of the most prestigious in the world, has lost its longtime sponsor, the Guardian reports.

The London-based Man Group, a hedge fund company, announced that it would no longer fund the annual award for an outstanding English-language novel, which is given each year by the Booker Prize Foundation.

Luke Ellis, the CEO of the Man Group, said the company decided to focus its giving on other charities.

“The Man Booker prizes have meant a huge amount to all of us at Man Group,” Ellis said. “We are truly honored to have been part of something so special and unique for nearly 18 years.”

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It’s not known whether the award will change its name. It was originally known as the Booker-McConnell Prize, named after the now-defunct food wholesaler that originally sponsored the award from its inception in 1969. The Man Group started sponsoring the prize in 2002.

The BBC reports that the relationship between the Booker Prize Foundation and the Man Group had been strained for a while, with the hedge fund company feeling “unappreciated” by the foundation.

Tensions apparently heightened after the British author Sebastian Faulks blasted the Man Group as “the enemy,” saying that the company was “not the sort of people who should be sponsoring literary prizes;they’re the kind of people literary prizes ought to be criticizing.”

Man Group CEO Ellis responded, “His comments ... come at a time when the arts are experiencing an unprecedented withdrawal of public funding. Literature and the arts need their champions to step in where public money has been pulled out.”

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The Booker Prize Foundation said it had been discussing a potential partnership with a prospective partner and that the Man Group’s withdrawal wouldn’t affect its upcoming awards.

The award has drawn controversy in recent years after the foundation decided in 2014 to open the award to an English-language novel written by a writer of any nationality. Previously, it was restricted to authors from the United Kingdom, Ireland and the Commonwealth of Nations.

Some British literary fans objected to the rule change, especially after two American writers, Paul Beatty and George Saunders, won the prize in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Last February, 20 British publishers signed a letter asking the foundation to make Americans ineligible for the award.

Two American authors, Rachel Kushner and Richard Powers, made the shortlist for the most recent Booker Prize, which ended up going to Northern Irish writer Anna Burns for her novel “Milkman.”


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