If you didn’t know that Sigrid Rausing came from one of the richest families in Britain, worth billions, you wouldn’t immediately guess. And there is no reason, of course, why you should guess, or care – except that the uses to which she has put those riches have given her an unusual kind of power.
For about 20 years, she has been a quietly formidable philanthropist. Her gifts – nearly £70m so far – have often gone towards human rights projects in the third world, where a small amount can be a significant windfall. But recently she has been branching out. Last spring, she launched Portobello Books, which aims to publish “activist non-fiction” as well as some fiction. Then, in the autumn, she bought Granta – both the magazine and publishing house. While Granta’s significance may have waned in recent years it remains a literary kingmaker. This makes Rausing, its new owner, a major player in British cultural life.
Her solution has been to help others.