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Whitbread could be toast

Big news on the book-award front: sponsorship of the Whitbread Awards, the second-most prestigious book awards in Britain after the Man Booker, is up for grabs. A sponsor for the honours since their inception in 1971, the Whitbread corporation gave its name to a brewery and pub chain in addition to the family of awards, which includes one prize each in the categories of novel, first novel, biography, poetry, children’s book, and overall winner. Having sold its interests in the businesses bearing the Whitbread name, the company will withdraw its support of the prizes following the announcement of the 2005 Whitbread winners next month.

Richard Brooks of The Sunday Times writes, “The award is credited with helping [Andrea Levy’s Small Island] sell more than 600,000 copies in paperback. The 2003 winner, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon, has sold more than 1m paperback copies.” These sales come despite — or perhaps in part because of — Whitbread’s contentious use of celebrity judges that have, in the past, included Jerry Hall and Hugh Grant.

Related links:
Click here for the full story from The Sunday Times
Click here for speculation on new sponsorships — and names — for the awards, courtesy of The Guardian‘s John Sutherland