July 1, 2018, marked the fifth anniversary of the completion of the Penguin Group–Random House merger, a deal that created the world’s largest trade publisher, which had $3.4 billion in global sales in 2017. That revenue total was generated by a company that has 275 worldwide imprints, sells some 700 million books per year, and publishes 14,000 new releases annually, all produced by about 10,000 employees. And PRH legacy and current imprints have published more than 60 Nobel laureates.

Announced in late October 2012 by Penguin owner Pearson and RH parent company Bertelsmann, the merger of the two largest trade publishers in the U.S.—and in a number of other countries—was approved by government regulators quickly, leaving it to Markus Dohle, who had been CEO of Random House, to oversee the integration of the two companies as CEO of the combined publisher, while Penguin chairman John Makinson was named its chairman.

How the merger of the two companies would proceed was the subject of much speculation, both inside PRH, where worries of widespread layoffs were prevalent, and throughout the entire industry, where, among other things, agents and authors wondered whether the consolidation of the two large houses would lower advances. Some industry members also wondered whether Dohle could successfully combine two separate corporate cultures and questioned whether the two companies’ back offices could be combined without causing disruptions to PRH’s business.

Though the merger did lead to the elimination of jobs, for the most part the integration was surprisingly smooth. There were no reports of books stockpiled in warehouses or shipments ending up at the wrong retailer—and PRH has continued to pay some big advances (for instance, the speculated $65 million advance for one book each from Barack and Michelle Obama).

In emailed responses to questions from PW, Dohle credited the success of the merger to two factors: the ability of the team assigned to implement the integration to shield the editorial and marketing and sales departments from any distractions, and the decision that only Penguin and Random House executives would oversee the merger. “We literally designed and implemented the merger together as a team without all of the consultants and external advisers of usual mergers,” Dohle said. “Doing it our way meant that the new Penguin Random House became ‘our’ company. Designed and implemented by us.”

Using only in-house talent to bring the companies together did pose some risks, including a small margin for error. For Dohle, the pivotal moment came, ironically enough, on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015. With a snowstorm approaching the East Coast, PRH executives were preparing to move the Penguin systems onto the RH platform. Dohle remembers the scene: “On that Sunday in 2015, we basically pushed the button for what we called the ‘Big Bang.’ Overnight, we moved more than 200 Penguin IT applications onto the scaled Random House IT platform, and we officially went from six to two warehouses in the U.S. In preparation for this formative day, we had moved 100 million books and had invested around $50 million in our IT and distribution networks. There was literally no plan B. It had to work. I remember being in the ‘command center’ in New York City, videoconferencing with our colleagues in the warehouses at the very moment when we were able to print out the first orders, invoices, and labels—we were all cheering and hugging because we knew we would be able to deliver books to our customers and readers the very next day. It felt like we had won the Super Bowl before the game had even started.”

There was no similar defining moment when Dohle became certain that the two corporate cultures would come together. Since both Penguin and Random House were formed by many acquisitions over the years that had given rise to what Dohle termed “a community of small- and medium-size publishing houses,” he took much the same approach in creating PRH. The goal, he said, was to “preserve the creative independence and diversity of our imprints” while “maximizing the economies of scale and service levels in all service and support functions.”

Though Dohle was confident Penguin and Random House would mesh, he acknowledged that he was “happily surprised how quickly we became one company.” He attributed that, in part, to the respect employees from both companies had for publishing the best books possible. And it didn’t hurt, Dohle noted, that many people had worked at both companies over the course of their careers. Five years into the merger, about half of the PRH staff were employees who began working at PRH after the merger.

Since the merger was completed, PRH has continued to evolve, making a number of divestitures and acquisitions. Among the businesses sold in the U.S. were self-publishing service provider Author Solutions, Fodor’s, and Random House Studio, while PRH’s acquisitions have included Rodale Books and Sasquatch. Its biggest deals took place outside of the U.S. and involved the 2014 purchase of Santillana Ediciones Generales’ trade book business by Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial, and the 2017 acquisition of Ediciones B, which was also added to Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial.

Dohle believes that even with sales of $3.4 billion last year, PRH can benefit from more growth. “I am convinced that there is more room for economies of scale—both in our large mature markets and especially in emerging markets,” he said. “The additional scale can be achieved through organic growth in what is a fairly healthy and growing global book market—and nonorganically through acquisitions.”

And there is still one more piece of unfinished business to complete in the U.S. Since the merger, Penguin and Random House have operated in three separate buildings. That will end in the first quarter of 2019, when the Penguin staff will move into the Random House offices on Broadway. “We are looking forward to finally being under one roof in New York City,” Dohle said.

Penguin Random House U.S. Publishing Groups

Penguin Random House U.S. is the publisher’s largest division, accounting for about 55% of total revenue. Below is an overview of the publishing groups and imprints that drive the company.

Audio/Living Language

  • Penguin Random House Audio Publishing
  • DK
  • Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Alfred A. Knopf

  • Anchor Books
  • Doubleday
  • Everyman’s Library
  • Nan A. Talese
  • Pantheon Books
  • Schocken Books
  • Vintage Books
  • Vintage Español

Penguin Publishing Group

  • Avery
  • Berkley
  • DAW
  • Dutton
  • G.P. Putnam’s Sons
  • Penguin Books
  • Penguin Classics
  • Penguin Press
  • Plume
  • Portfolio Penguin
  • Riverhead
  • Sentinel
  • TarcherPerigee
  • Viking

Penguin Young Readers Group

  • Dial Books for Young Readers
  • Dutton Children’s Books
  • Frederick Warne
  • G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
  • Kathy Dawson Books
  • Nancy Paulsen Books
  • Penguin Workshop
  • Philomel Books
  • Puffin Books
  • Razorbill
  • Speak
  • Viking Children’s Books

Random House

(Trade imprints and digital imprints are not included)

  • Ballantine
  • Bantam
  • Delacorte Press
  • Dell
  • Del Rey
  • The Dial Press
  • Lenny
  • Modern Library
  • One World
  • Random House
  • Spiegel & Grau

Random House Children’s Books

  • Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
  • Crown Books for Young Readers
  • Delacorte Press Young Readers
  • Doubleday for Young Readers
  • Dragonfly Books
  • Ember
  • Golden Books
  • Laurel-Leaf Books
  • Now I’m Reading!
  • The Princeton Review
  • Random House Books for Young Readers
  • Schwartz & Wade Books
  • Sylvan Learning
  • Wendy Lamb Books
  • Yearling Books

The Crown Publishing Group

  • Broadway Books
  • Clarkson Potter
  • Convergent Books
  • Crown
  • Crown Archetype
  • Crown Forum
  • Currency
  • Harmony Books
  • Hogarth
  • Hogarth Shakespeare
  • Image
  • Lorena Jones Books
  • Rodale
  • SJP for Hogarth
  • Ten Speed Press
  • Three Rivers Press
  • Tim Duggan Books
  • WaterBrook Multnomah
  • Watson-Guptill

Correction: An earlier iteration of this piece stated that PRH operated in two separate buildings. It is actually three.