Murdoch Mulls Journal-HarperCollins Alliance

Add another item to the list of changes that the Murdoch era could usher in for The Wall Street Journal.

Since March 2004, The Journal has maintained an exclusive partnership with the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House with which the paper collaborates on Journal-themed reference guides, crossword puzzle collections and some of the nonfiction books written by its reporters. To date, they’ve collaborated on at least 12 books, among them The Wall Street Journal Guide to the Business of Life, The Wall Street Journal Complete Identity Theft Guidebook and The Price of Admission, by The Journal’s former Boston deputy bureau chief Daniel Golden.

But Crown’s contract with The Journal is set to run out this spring, and according to publishing insiders, it is unlikely that Rupert Murdoch—who will formally take over Dow Jones, The Journal’s parent company, next month—will want to preserve the affiliation. Instead, they say, he will probably seek to realign the paper’s books operation with HarperCollins, the publishing house he has owned since 1989.

And he may have just the person to make it happen. Steve Ross, who ran Crown when it inked its 2004 deal with The Journal and supervised the partnership, is now a top executive at HarperCollins, putting him in the perfect position to seal the deal. Indeed, according to one high-level editor at HarperCollins with knowledge of the situation, Mr. Ross and Brian Murray, the president of HarperCollins Worldwide, have already met with Journal representatives to discuss the idea. The editor also noted that Mr. Ross had recently acquired a book for HarperCollins by Dow Jones vice president Paul Ingrassia about the auto industry. Mr. Ross did not respond to a request for comment.

A spokesman for The Journal would not comment on the negotiations with HarperCollins, and a spokeswoman for Mr. Murray said that because The Journal still has an “ongoing business relationship” with Crown, “it is too soon to tell what will happen.”