Peter Michael Mayer (March 28, 1936 – May 11, 2018) was a British-born American independent publisher who was president of The Overlook Press/Peter Mayer Publishers, Inc., a Woodstock, New York-based publishing company he founded with his father in 1971. At the time of Overlook’s founding, Mayer was head of Avon Books, a large New York-based paperback publisher. From 1978 to 1996, Mayer was CEO of Penguin Books, where he introduced a flexible style in editorial, marketing, and production. During his tenure, he was credited with reviving the company into "the most formidable and admired publisher in the English language". Recently, Mayer financially revived both Ardis, a publisher of Russian literature in English, and Duckworth, an independent publishing house in the UK.
Early life and education
Born to a Jewish family in London on March 28, 1936, Mayer migrated to the United States in 1939. He was raised in Kew Gardens, Queens, New York City. His father, Alfred, from Luxembourg, later established a glove manufacturing business while his mother, Lee, who was from Germany, was a homemaker. A Ford Foundation scholarship enabled him to earn his BA degree in English literature at Columbia College, going on to read PPE at Christ Church, Oxford University, where he graduated in 1954. He returned to Columbia in 1956 with a summa cum laude degree in English literature. He then served in the US Merchant Marine before being granted a graduate fellowship in comparative literature at Indiana University, and in 1959 earned a Fulbright scholarship to study German literature at the Freie Universität Berlin.