Profit flat at Bertelsmann media firm but Random House unit rakes in sales of erotic trilogy

FRANKFURT – Booming sales of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” erotic trilogy helped publisher Random House to a record year.

The company sold 70 million copies of E L James’ “Fifty Shades” books in print, audio and e-book format in English, German and Spanish.

Revenues at New York-based Random House jumped 22.5 per cent to 2.1 billion euros ($2.7 billion) in 2012. Operating earnings leaped 76 per cent to 325 million euros.

Company officials credited the “Fifty Shades” phenomenon, the top seller in the U.S. market, along with other titles such as “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn and “Thomas Jefferson” by Jon Meacham. In Britain, the company scored with “A Wanted Man” by Lee Child and Rod Stewart’s autobiography, “Rod.”

Earnings at German parent company Bertelsmann edged up to 619 million euros for 2012 from 612 million euros the year before, the company said Tuesday. Higher expenses for taxes and what it called “structurally declining” businesses hurt profits.

Privately held Bertelsmann includes broadcaster RTL, magazine publisher Gruner + Jahr and music rights business BMG. Book division Random House is merging with Pearson’s Penguin book publisher.