Whitbread announcement stuns literary world

Whitbread

The Whitbread Literary Prize, one of the United Kingdom’s most prestigious honors to be bestowed on authors, is up for sale.

The Whitbread company, which has sponsored this prize since 1971, has undergone a radical transformation and no longer uses the Whitbread brand on any of its products. This month its Board of Directors announced that, with metamorphosis into the UK’s leading hospitality business, it is time to find a new sponsor. “[Our] number one priority is to find a like-minded organization that shares our vision for this award and is committed to developing and nurturing it.”

Three years ago, the Booker Prize, another highly-sought-after literary award, underwent a similar shift when the investment firm Man Group, took it over. It has lost none of its influence with the name change, and British writers hope the same smooth transition awaits the Whitbread.

The change will take place after this year’s Whitbread winners are announced on January 24, 2006.