Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH publishing group is a family-owned company headquartered in Germany. It publishes both print and electronic media in more than 80 countries, and serves educational, professional, and general readership markets.

The group’s activities are divided between four areas: Trade Publishing, Education and Science, Newspapers and Business Information, and Electronic Media and Services.

Its publishing activities focus on the German, British and US market, and include a large number of imprints, notably in Germany: S. Fischer; Rowohlt; Kiepenheuer & Witsch; and Verlagsgruppe Droemer Knaur (together with Weltbild). In the UK, the group owns Pan Macmillan; US holdings include: Macmillan; St. Martin’s Press; Henry Holt; and Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

The Education and Science division includes, notably: The Nature Publishing Group; Scientific American; Palgrave Macmillan; Macmillan Education; as well as J.B. Metzler in Germany.

Key company developments in 2011 & 1st half year 2012


In a mature market environment, Holtzbrinck could, with its publishing activities included for this ranking (Trade plus Education & Science) almost hold its revenues from 2010 (1.51 billion EUR against 1.5 billion EUR in 2011), yet grow profits for several years in a row to 2.51 billion EUR.

Revenues in Education & Science showed a significant, continuous growth over the past 3 years, from 758.8 million EUR in 2009 to 831.8 million EUR in 2011.

Ownership, mergers & acquisition, internal organization:

At the end of 2011, Macmillan announced the departure of its president, Brian Napack.


In 2011, Macmillan has “walked away” from its education business in East and West Africa, after an investigation by the World Bank on charges of bribery.


In early 2012, the ebook lending platform Scoobe was launched with a library of almost 10,000 German language titles, of which 6,050 are works of fiction. The subscription service is charging a fee of 9,99 EUR per month and offering for the initial year free downloads of all titles. From 2013, this will be reduced to two books per reader and month. Scoobe is a joint venture of Holtzbrinck and Random House.

Macmillan was among those publishing houses singled out by the US Department of Justice in its inquiry on ebook pricing and the “agency model”.

Bestselling authors & titles:

Authors with recently bestselling titles include Siri Hustvedt, P.C. Cast, Cecilia Ahern, Javier Marías, Felicitas Hoppe, Christian Kracht, Julian Barnes, Neil Asher, and Alan Holinghurst.

Key points for analysis & conclusions:


Earlier developments:

In early 2010, the group’s US representative John Sargent challenged Amazon.com over eBook pricing issues, sparking a brief controversy. Sargent successfully claimed the right for the publisher to define the retail price of an electronic book, after Amazon had insisted on being in control over discounts. The dispute was settled over a weekend, with the emergence of the so-called “agency model," which grants the publisher control over the consumer price for a digital book.

The most dramatic recent event occurred in the group’s newspaper business, when Dieter von Holtzbrinck, former chairman and already retired member of the owning family, bought majority shares in the Verlagsgruppe Handelsblatt (including Handelsblatt and WirtschaftsWoche, the Verlagsgruppe Handelsblatt professional publisher, and iq media marketing GmbH), the Tagesspiegel Group, and a 49% share in DIE ZEIT Group.

Growth was registered in the group only in the “Digital media” segment (with +41.8 percent against 2007), even as no specific details have been given.

Revenues in book publishing declined from 605.8 million EUR in trade, and remained flat in education and science (with revenues of 763.2 million EUR in 2008, against 750.5 million EUR in the previous year).

Note: Figures are based on sales generated in calendar 2011 or—for corporations with a fiscal year—from fiscal 2011. Data are from publicly available sources and include sales of books, journals, and digital products. Because publishing data were unavailable, Pannini and Disney/Hyperion are excluded from the rankings. The listing and publisher profiles were compiled by international publishing consultant Rudiger Wischenbart under the aegis of Livres Hebdo.