Ailing store may offer Booker Prize for hire

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The Independent Culture

Iceland, the supermarket giant which owns the Booker Prize, is considering plans to "loan" the annual literature award to other companies to offset the £300,000 cost of staging it.

The struggling high street chain is poised to offer major businesses the right to add their names to the award's title in exchange for organising its lengthy judging process and televised prize ceremony. The shortlist for this year's prize will be announced this week.

The proposal comes barely a year after Iceland's merger with Booker, the cash-and-carry food company which founded the fiction award 33 years ago. It follows months of financial embarrassment for the company, whose founder and chairman, Malcolm Walker, resigned in January amid a £13.5m shares scandal.

Shortly before his departure, Mr Walker angered guests at last year's Booker ceremony by suggesting – he later claimed in jest – that it might one day change its name to the Iceland Prize.

A Booker source said: "Iceland is not trying to sell the prize, in the sense that it still wants to get some credit for owning it, but it is talking about getting help with sharing the cost of running it.

"It might be prepared to let other people run it for a time, in exchange for having their names put above it. You might get, for example, the Boots Booker Prize for a while."

A spokesman for the chain said: "Iceland is always looking at how it can best work with the Booker Prize, but as things are we are very pleased to be sponsoring it."

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