Lord Gavron, owner of The Folio Society and Carcanet Press, has died at the age of 84.
Gavron's death, thought to be caused by a heart attack suffered on Saturday (7th February) after playing tennis, comes just ahead of the announcement of the shortlist for the second Folio Prize, to be made later today.
A statement from the Folio Society said: "As owner and Chairman of The Folio Society since 1982, and as a lifelong, passionate bibliophile and book collector, Bob Gavron had an enduring belief in the intrinsic value and beauty of books. It was his love of the printed word that drove his interest in leading The Folio Society. His desire to make beautifully crafted books available to as many people as possible defined his stewardship of the company for over 30 years.
"Bob Gavron brought to The Folio Society a wealth of experience garnered from a long and distinguished career in printing and publishing, notably as founder (in 1964) and chairman of the St Ives print group until 1993. He also served as Chairman of the Guardian Media Group from 1997 to 2000. Elevated to the peerage in 1999, Bob Gavron’s passion for the arts went far beyond publishing. He was a director of the Royal Opera House (1992-1998), a trustee of the National Gallery (1994-2001) and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (since 1996), as well as chair of his own charitable trust.
"Through his long association with The Folio Society, Bob Gavron shaped an important cultural legacy. His wisdom, humour and leadership will be sorely missed and at this sad time, the thoughts and deepest sympathies of all of us at The Folio Society go out to Lady Gavron, his children, grandchildren and to all his family and friends."
Folio Prize founder Andrew Kidd, speaking today, said: "Bob was 84, but he remained as vibrant as ever, so it's a huge shock that he is suddenly gone. He was, of course, a man of legendary achievement: in business, in the media and across the arts – as well as through his longstanding and much lauded charitable foundation. The generous decision he took two years ago to back the Folio Prize, for which we will remain forever grateful, was entirely in keeping with his life-long commitment to and his belief in the intrinsic value of books, and his love of the printed word. He was a great champion of great literature, and on behalf of the Folio Prize I want to express our deepest sympathies to everyone at the Folio Society and, of course, to Bob's friends and family, and most especially to his wife, children and grandchildren."
Michael Schmidt, managing and editorial director of Manchester poetry publisher Carcanet Press, told The Bookseller: "Bob Gavron acquired Carcanet in 1983, under no illusion that he had bought a goldmine. It had been running at a loss for 14 years, but winning prizes and already quite well-known. After that he supported, under-wrote and encouraged our development. The issue of survival never arose: he was there for the long haul. Kate Gavron has been our chairman for many years now. There has not once been editorial intervention. The occasional raised eyebrow, perhaps, but on the whole lessons in good husbandry, good design, and cheerful support. Bob understood publishing in all its aspects, from the mass market to the most specialized, and he knew that there was a place for each. I think he liked our books – poetry and prose - as books, each one delivering a different surprise."
Martin Amis, Will Self and Michel Faber are among the 80 nominees in contention for a place on the shortlist for the 2015 Folio Prize, worth £40,000.
The inaugural award was won by short story writer George Saunders.