“Mordecai suggested that we include David Staines, an eminent English professor and scholar,” Mr. Rabinovitch said. “And over chopped liver at Moishes on the Main, the Giller Prize took form. David then suggested we include Alice Munro in the founding group, and after Alice agreed, we went public.”
Ms. Munro, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013, also became part of Mr. Rabinovitch’s circle of friends.
Becoming one of the Giller Prize jurors, who sift through about 150 books to pick a short list of about a dozen, is almost as great an honor in Canadian literary circles as winning the award itself. “He wanted a prize that would create a sense of competition,” said Bob Rae, the former premier of Ontario, former leader of the federal Liberal Party and another of Mr. Rabinovitch’s friends and tennis partners.
Mr. Rabinovitch was born June 24, 1930, to Isaac Rabinovitch and the former Fanny Shulman in Montreal. They lived in a hardscrabble, largely Jewish section of the city (Mr. Richler drew on experiences there for his 1971 novel “St. Urbain’s Horseman”), and Isaac Rabinovitch ran a diner and a newsstand before opening a toy store.
After studying at McGill and briefly working as a reporter, Mr. Rabinovitch became a speechwriter for Sam Steinberg, the head of a grocery store empire that was broken up after his death in 1978. At Trizec, a real estate company initially formed to build Place Ville Marie, a downtown Montreal office complex, Mr. Rabinovitch eventually became executive vice president in charge of the company’s hotel, office tower and retail developments in eastern North America.
His marriage to Zipporah Dunsky, whom he met shortly after graduating from high school, ended in divorce in 1971. She was the executive director of the Jewish Public Library in Montreal.
In addition to Noni, Mr. Rabinovitch is survived by two other daughters from his first marriage, Daphna and Elana. His sister Shirley Edith Coleman also survives him, as does Judy Clarke, his partner for the last several years.
The book award, known since 2005 as the Scotiabank Giller Prize, now gives the winner 100,000 Canadian dollars (about $79,000), a large amount by the country’s literary standards, and is aired on television by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
In the 2014 interview, Mr. Rabinovitch attributed the prize’s prominence to its independence from government and other large organizations.