Thursday, December 26, 2013

Friday's Focus: More on The Big Six Publishers

Last Friday my focus was on the two Big Six publishers in New York who are actually American-held holdings. Today the focus is on the four who most people believe to also be American publishers, but who are actually owned by foreign entities.

The first is Random House, probably the best and most widely known of the big six publishers among the average reader. Random House was founded in 1927 by Bennet Cerf and Donald Klopfer, and for many years was an independent publisher. In the early 1960's, it acquired two other publishing companies, Knopf and Pantheon, and then in 1998 Random House was bought by Bertelsmann, a privately owned media company in Germany.

There is an interesting, and little known fact, about Bertelsmann, who began as a small publisher in 1835. By 1939, it had grown large enough to become the single largest publisher of Nazi propaganda. The company also benefited from the slave labor from prison camps furnished to them by the Nazi Party.

(My own thoughts about this: having lost a brother to the Nazis, I would not want to be associated with Random House or any of its imprints. Just my own personal opinion.)

Bertelsmann's US Random House Division has a long list of well-known imprints, such as Dell, Doubleday, The Dial Press, Knopf, and others...all of these are often thought of as independent publishing companies, but they aren't.

The second of the four foreign-held publishers is Macmillan, usually thought of as a British publisher. However, it is also a German company, owned by Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holzbrinck of Stuttgart, Germany. Macmillan was originally founded by two brothers, Daniel and Alexander Macmillan, and remained an independent company until 1995, when the huge German media conglomerate Holzbrinck Publishing Group bought 79 percent. Then four years later, in 1999 they bought the remaining 31 percent. In the US, their well-known imprints include Faber & Faber, Henry Holt and Company, and Farrar, Straus and Giroux, as well as others.

The third is the Hachette Book Group USA, owned by the French company Hachette Livre. In turn, Hachette Livre is owned by Lagardere Publishing, the French Media giant. The US website of Hachette Book Group says their story began in 1837 when Little, Brown and Company was founded. In 1996, Little,Brown and Company merged with Warner Books, and eventually became theTime Warner Book Group. This group was then purchased in 2006 by Hachette. However, Hachette's story actually began in 1826 when it was founded by Louis Hachette, when he opened his book shop and publishing company in France.

The last is the Penguin Group, which is the largest publisher in the world. From a US perspective, their story begins in 1838 when John Wiley and George Putnam founded Wiley and Putnam. In 1848, they split, and Putnam went on by himself. The company did very well, and in 1965 bought Berkley books. Then, in 1975, the Putnam and Berkley Groups were acquired by The Music Corporation of America, as their publishing division. In 1985, the division was sold to the Penguin Group, a division of the British publishing conglomerate, Pearson PLC, based  in London. The best known imprint of Penguin, in the US, is Viking.

In July, 2013, Random House bought out the Penguin Group, and became the "Penguin Random House." Needless to say, it is now the strongest, the largest, and the most dominant publisher on the planet, in the publishing business.
The new logo, somehow, doesn't demonstrate this fact. It is a very UNinspired logo of the Penguin Group's Penguin standing by Random House's house, but looking away from the house. Hmmm...

Until next time,
That's a wrap.


  1. This was another informative post, and the Random House's Nazi connection was quite shocking.
    I'm sorry to hear about your brother, Mikki.
    May his memory be blessed.

  2. Thanks, Loren. My brother was 12 years older than I, but he was my hero in more ways than one. He was a bomber pilot in WW II, killed along with his enitre crew on the last bombing raid over Belin before Germany surrounded. And I also, was shocked at the Nazi connection with one of our most prominent publishing houses. A good many years ago, true, but it's still a shock to hear something like that.

  3. That is true heroic story Mikki, and I am so moved I'm going right now to the Muse It Up Bookstore to buy your book in his memory. The least we can do for our fallen heroes is to encourage their loved ones.
    All the best.

    1. I don't know what to say, Loren, except...thank you...especially for your kind words.