Since 2002, the Man Group has partnered with and donated £25 million to the Booker Prize and its international edition. However, it has now been announced that this year’s prize will be the final one sponsored by Man. As reported by Sky, the Booker Prize Foundation has stated its trustees are “in discussion with a new sponsor and are confident that the new funding will be in place for 2020”. The foundation’s chairwoman, Helena Kennedy described Man as an “excellent and very generous sponsor.”
The news follows criticism from author who have stated that Man should not sponsor a literary prize. Best-selling author Sebastian Faulks previously described Man Group as “the enemy” and called the award “irritation.” In a podcast last year, he said Man were “not the sort of people who should be sponsoring literary prizes – they’re the kind of people literary prizes ought to be criticising. I wouldn’t feel happy about accepting money from them.”
Luke Ellis, Man’s chief executive defended the sponsorship at the time, saying: “The arts are experiencing an unprecedented withdrawal of public funding.” He added: “Literature and the arts need their champions to step in where public money has been pulled out.”
Further controversy was sparked when the entry rules changed for the prize. When the Booker prize began in 1969, only writers from Commonwealth countries could enter. In 2014, other English speaking countries were allowed to enter, including the United States. Author Peter Carey, who has win the award twice criticised the change and said he fears the prize would lose its “particular cultural flavour.”
Those who win the Booker Prize are awarded £50,000 and usually see a large spike in book sales. Previous winners include Salman Rushdie, Hilary Mantel, and Julian Barnes.
Speaking on Man’s decision to end the partnership, Ms Kennedy said: “With their support we have seen the prizes and our charitable activities flourish so that today the prizes can claim to be the most significant literary awards in the world. However, all good things must come to an end and we look forward to taking the prizes into the next phase with our new supporter.”
Mr Ellis said Man would “focus its resources” on a new campaign to expand the firm’s global charitable initiatives. We are truly honoured to have been a part of something so special and unique.”
The main literature prize this year goes to Richard Powers for his novel, The Overstory, described as “an ingeniously structured narrative that branches and canopies like the trees at the core of the story whose wonder and connectivity echo those of the humans living amongst them.”
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