Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 19 September 2019

The Crankstart Booker Prize? Book prize reveals new Silicon Valley sponsor

The Crankstart Foundation will fund the award for five years, but will not have naming rights: it is now The Booker Prize for Fiction and the International Booker Prize

Mike Moritz's Crankstart Foundation will sponsor the Booker Prize for five years from June 2019. Bloomberg
Mike Moritz's Crankstart Foundation will sponsor the Booker Prize for five years from June 2019. Bloomberg

Britain's most prestigious literary prize foundation has announced a new sponsor, after it cut ties with hedge fund Man Group last month.

Following nearly two decades of support and £25 million (Dh121m) of investment, the group pulled out as sponsor, but prize trustees have announced that the Crankstart Foundation will take over from June 2019.

But, don't worry, that doesn't mean we'll have to start calling it the Crankstart Booker Prize, as the foundation announced the two literary prizes will, from June 1, be known as The Booker Prize for Fiction and the International Booker Prize.

The charity, founded in Silicon Valley, is run by venture capitalist Michael Moritz – whose net worth is estimated by Forbes at $3.4 billion (Dh12.4bn) – and his wife, writer Harriet Heyman. It is, according to its website, committed to "supporting the forgotten, the dispossessed, the oppressed, and others where some help makes all the difference". The terms of the exclusive five-year agreement will see Crankstart fund both the Booker Prize for English-language novels and the International Booker Prize for translated works, with an option to renew to complete a decade.

The two 2019 prizes will run as normal.

In January, Luke Ellis, Man Group's chief executive, said the company was "truly honoured to have been a part of something so special and unique", but it would "focus its resources" on a new campaign to expand the firm's charitable initiatives.

Writer Anna Burns was the first Northern Irish writer to win the Man Booker Prize, in 2018. REUTERS
Writer Anna Burns was the first Northern Irish writer to win the Man Booker Prize, in 2018. REUTERS

Helena Kennedy, the Booker Prize Foundation chairwoman, commented at the time: "All good things must come to an end and we look forward to taking the prizes into the next phase with our new supporter."

While the financial details of this new agreement with the Crankstart Foundation have not been disclosed, the Booker Prize Foundation has said there are no plans to amend the prize purse of £52,500 (Dh255,000) for the English-language prize, nor the £25,000 for the winning author and their translator in the international iteration.

Previous Booker Prize winners include V S Naipaul, Iris Murdoch, Salman Rushdie, J M Coetzee, Kingsley Amis, Kazuo Ishiguro, A S Byatt and Ian McEwan, among others.

Last year, author Anna Burns won for her novel Milkman, making it the first time a Northern Irish writer had been awarded the prize.

While corporate sponsorship of the arts has been criticised in the past, Booker Prize-winning author Ben Okri says it's important to first understand a donor's vision. “It really just depends on the corporation’s vision of their role in the human story," he told The National at this year's Jaipur Literature Festival, when it was announced that Man Group was dropping out. "If their vision is that it’s really about profit, then why would you enter into sponsorship of the arts? But if you see your role as contributing something to the human story and to culture, then it’s not a problem.”

Considering Moritz and Heyman's literary background – Moritz also previously worked as a journalist for Time magazine, wrote a biography of Steve Jobs and Apple, and recently co-authored Leading with former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson – we can perhaps trust the pair's vision for the prize.

"Neither of us can imagine a day where we don't spend time reading a book," said Moritz. "The Booker Prizes are ways of spreading the word about insights, discoveries, pleasures and joy that spring from great fiction.

"Just like The Booker, I was born in Britain and before coming to America was reared on English literature. Harriet and I feel fortunate to be able to support prizes that together celebrate the best fiction in the world."

Updated: February 28, 2019 02:32 PM

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