Silicon Valley Billionaire Michael Moritz to Sponsor U.K.’s Prestigious Booker Prize

The Booker Prize Foundation lost its longtime sponsor, the hedge fund Man Group, in January. But a new patron has stepped up to fund the landmark U.K. literary prize.

Billionaire Michael Moritz, a partner at Sequoia Capital who was born in Wales, will sponsor the prize via his nonprofit Crankstart Foundation, with his wife, American author Harriet Heyman. Crankstart has agreed to sponsor the Booker Prize for five years, with the possibility of a five-year renewal, the Financial Times reports.

Crankstart will not add its name to the award, which will just be called the Booker Prize again as of June 1, when the Man Group’s sponsorship ends.

Moritz, who lives in Silicon Valley, said he and his wife wanted to help celebrate the best fiction in the world. “Neither of us can imagine a day where we don’t spend time reading a book. The Booker prizes are ways of spreading the word about the insights, discoveries, pleasures and joy that spring from great fiction,” Moritz told the BBC.

The Booker Prize, started in 1969, is an award for an outstanding English-language work of fiction, giving £50,000 ($66,500) to one author each year, plus smaller rewards to writers who make the short list. Originally it was restricted to British, Irish and Commonwealth authors but was opened up to any nationality in 2014. In 2016, Booker added an award for an outstanding book in English translation, with a £50,000 prize shared between author and translator.

Man Group had sponsored the literary prize for 18 years, donating more than $2 million annually. Some authors weren’t happy about the money coming from a hedge fund, however, so how they’ll feel about a venture capitalist remains to be seen.

Helena Kennedy, chair of Booker’s trustees, told the BBC Moritz and Heyman were “real book lovers”: “Many commercial sponsors want opportunities to use the thing for purposes like bringing their guests to the dinner. They are not interested in any of that. Their interest is sustaining good literature.”

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