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Nigel Newton, founder of Bloomsbury Publishing, publisher of the Harry Potter books, is to receive The London Book Fair (LBF) Lifetime Achievement Award at The London Book Fair International Excellence Awards next month.
Newton started Bloomsbury Publishing at the age of 31 in 1986 and led the house from a start-up with an initial investment of less than £2 million, to floating on the London Stock Exchange in 1994 and then on to a market capitalisation of over £200 million today.
Its annual sales are approximately £160 million from both academic and general publishing. Bloomsbury operates internationally with 750 staff in its offices in London, Oxford, New York, Sydney and New Delhi, and the drive continues with a new venture in China.
With his colleagues, he played a part in perhaps the greatest publishing success of modern times with the publication of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books between 1997 and 2007—a UK phenomenon that has reverberated around the world ever since.
Bloomsbury has also published books by Khaled Hosseini, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, William Dalrymple and Peter Frankopan. Ondaatje’s The English Patient won the Golden Man Booker Prize as the best Booker novel of the last 50 years. The house also publishes the memoirs of Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah and Member of the Supreme Council of the United Arab Emirates.
Jacks Thomas, director The London Book Fair, said: “Conferring on Nigel the LBF Lifetime Achievement Award is both a pleasure and an honour. His contribution to publishing, both Bloomsbury and beyond, is immense both here and around the globe as the Bloomsbury magic has been exported worldwide. From trade to academic, a champion of entrepreneurial publishing, Nigel is behind one of the most interesting independents in UK publishing today. Many congratulations!”
Among authors paying tribute is Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite-Runner. He said: “Let me add my voice to those of fellow Bloomsbury authors and thank Nigel for giving my books a home like no other and for connecting my work to countless readers around the globe. More personally, I thank Nigel for his deep generosity, his unfailing warmth and effortless grace, for always making me feel way smarter than I am, and of course for all the wine and secret Yosemite spots. Heartfelt congratulations to you, my fellow San Franciscan. Well done.”.
Newton was born and raised in San Francisco. He read English at Cambridge. After working as a trainee at Macmillan in London, he joined Sidgwick & Jackson. He conceived the idea of Bloomsbury in 1984 when he was 28. He left Sidgwick in September 1986 to launch Bloomsbury with a group of fellow publishers whom he paid tribute to.
“I’m so grateful to our wonderful authors and to all my colleagues, past and present,” he said, “in particular David Reynolds, Liz Calder, Alan Wherry and Mike Mayer for their vital parts in Bloomsbury’s start in 1986 and for many years after, helping to confer the publishing values, vision, and entrepreneurial drive of Bloomsbury which remain to this day.
“Bloomsbury’s mission is to be an entrepreneurial, independent publisher of works of excellence and originality to a worldwide audience. Our purpose is to inform, educate, entertain and inspire readers of all ages. We aim to champion a life-long love of reading and learning to help build a reading culture with all the benefits which that brings society, with a particular interest in first-time writers.
“I am also very grateful to all Bloomsbury employees, authors and illustrators, customer, printers, freelancers, distributors and directors, shareholders and fellow publishers and members of the book trade.
“I’d like to thank the London Book Fair for being the amazing meeting ground of our industry that they are, for championing the importance of literature – and for this award of course.”
Charlie Redmayne, HarperCollins UK CEO said: “The Publishers Association, added: “Nigel Newton is one of the most important publishers of the last 30 years. Many publishing companies have launched in this period but none have achieved what Bloomsbury has done. Building a huge commercial success as well as publishing some of the most brilliant and important books of that period.