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Madoff made off with $360M from Booker Prize sponsor

Perhaps someday a great book will be written on the Bernard Madoff scandal -- I've got a notion that Tom Wolfe is already halfway through a first draft -- but regardless of when (or if) that book on the most notorious Ponzi scheme in the history of investing is published, Madoff's alleged fraud on a massive scale has already touched the literary world.

Bloomberg News
reported on Monday that Man Group PLC -- which is not a Robert Bly Iron John inspired male consciousness raising organization, but rather a venerable British "alternative investment" management and financial services business that was founded in 1783 by James Man, a London barrel maker who secured the exclusive contract to supply the British Royal Navy with the rum for nearly two centuries--appears to have lost over $360 million it had invested in hedge funds run by Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC.

Since 2002 Man Group, which runs several hedge funds of its own, has been the principal underwriter of the Man Booker Prize, the 50,000 pounds sterling award given annually to the best original full-length novel  written in the English language by a citizen of either the Commonwealth of Nations or Ireland.   Past winners of the Man Booker Prize have included V.S. Naipaul, A.S. Byatt, John Berger, Salman Rushdie, Iris Murdoch, William Golding, Arundati Roy, J.M. Coetzee, Margaret Atwood, Peter Carey, Kiran Desai, and in 2008, Aravind Adiga of India for his novel The White Tiger.

The Man Group PLC also sponsors the Man Booker International Prize, awarded for biennially to a living author for lifetime achievement in English language literature and a body of work.  The most recent winner was Nigeria's Chinua Achebe in 2007.

Jane Acton
, a spokesperson for the Man Booker Prize committee confirmed that sponsor assets had been lost in the fraud, but insisted that it would have no impact on the continuation of either prize.   “There’s absolutely no reason to suggest that there would be any difference to the sponsorship deal we have at the moment.” she told Bloomberg,

Maybe so, but the unfolding scandal--which may have claimed it's first life on Tuesday when Thierry Magon de La Villehuchet, the co-founder of Access International Advisors, which suffered losses of $1.5 billion in the alleged fraud, was found dead Tuesday in his Manhattan office, an apparent suicide--probably has the board of directors of the Man Group nostalgic for the good old days in a more legitimate business like rum running.

--R.D. Pohl



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