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Forbes magazine has named Penguin Random House (PRH) US CEO Madeline McIntosh as one of its 50 women visionaries over 50.  She joins an eclectic list that includes the Iranian-born Helen Sabzevari, CEO of biopharmaceutical company Precigen, and Wally Funk, the 82-year-old astronaut who joined Amazon founder Jeff Bezos on his Blue Origin flight into space earlier this year.

McIntosh was named CEO of Penguin Random House U.S. in 2018.  As CEO of the nation’s largest publishing company, she has focused on data collection, direct-to-consumer sales, and digital marketing.  A former head of Random House Audio, she shocked many by moving to Amazon in 2008.  She worked in Amazon in Luxembourg as their Director of Content for Kindle – a move that angered some in the publishing business.  But she told the New York Times:  “Amazon gave me the experience of being fully immersed in a culture where all the decisions were driven by the data.  That gave me the confidence that, hey, I can do this, too, and that it could be freeing. The good thing about doing things by math is that it diminishes the politics of a situation.”

PRH worldwide CEO Markus Dohle persuaded to her return in 2009 as president of sales operations and digital.  When she became CEO of PRH US in 2018 she spearheaded a number of major acquisitions, including purchasing a 45% stake in the independent publisher Sourcebooks.  She also oversaw the publication of the Obamas’ highly successful memoirs.

She met the challenge of the pandemic by ensuring that PRH upgraded its ability to sell books directly from its own website, bypassing bookstores.  When the coronavirus changed book-buying habits overnight, driving purchases almost entirely online, PRH was ready.

“Without knowing it, we’ve been planning to operate in this market for years,” Ms. McIntosh told the New York Times at the time: “We have the biggest list of books, we have access to the most data, so we could have a very accurate view on a daily basis of how consumer demand was shifting. We could see right away when people were grabbing the sourdough bread book, or the birding book, or the inspirational book, or the book that put this moment in the context of history.