Simon Cowell

Simon Cowell
Simon Cowell

Cowell at the National Television Awards at the Royal Albert Hall, London, October 2006.
Background information
Birth name Simon Phillip Cowell
Born 7 October 1959 (1959-10-07) (age 52)
Lambeth, London, England
Origin Elstree, Hertfordshire, England
Occupations A&R executive, television producer, entrepreneur, television personality
Years active 1979–present
Labels EMI
E&S Music
Fanfare Records
S Records
Sony Music Entertainment
Associated acts Westlife, Sinitta, Leon Jackson, Jai McDowall, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Curiosity Killed the Cat, Sonia, Five, Robson & Jerome, Ultimate Kaos, WWF Wrestlers, Zig and Zag, Leona Lewis, Alexandra Burke, Joe McElderry, Shayne Ward, Il Divo, Susan Boyle, Paul Potts, JLS

Simon Phillip Cowell (born 7 October 1959) is an English A&R executive, television producer, entrepreneur, and television personality. He is known in the United Kingdom and United States for his role as a talent judge on TV shows such as Pop Idol, The X Factor, Britain's Got Talent and American Idol. He is also the owner of the television production and music publishing house Syco.

As a judge, Cowell is known for his blunt and often controversial criticisms, insults and wisecracks about contestants and their abilities. He is also known for combining activities in the television and music industries, having promoted singles and records for various artists, including television personalities. He was most recently featured on the seventh series of The X Factor and the fifth series of Britain's Got Talent. In September 2011, he began featuring as a judge on the first season of The X Factor USA.

In 2010, the British magazine New Statesman listed Cowell at number 41 in a list of "The World's 50 Most Influential Figures 2010".[1]


Early life

Cowell was born in Lambeth, London[2] and brought up in Elstree, Hertfordshire.[3] His father, Eric Phillip Cowell (1918–1999),[2] was an estate agent developer and music industry executive; his mother, Julie Brett (née Josie Dalglish), is a former ballet dancer and socialite.[4] Cowell's paternal grandparents, Joseph Cowell and Esther Malinsky, were English Jews,[5] and his maternal grandfather was Scottish.[6] He has one brother and three half-brothers; younger brother Nicholas Cowell, half-brother John Cowell, half-brother Tony Cowell and half-brother Michael Cowell. Michael is the oldest, followed by John, Tony, Simon and Nicholas respectively.[citation needed]

Cowell attended Radlett Preparatory School and the independent Dover College as did his brother, but left after taking GCE O levels. He passed in English Language and Literature and then attended Windsor Technical College where he gained another GCE in Sociology.[7] At the age of 17, he dated model Paula Hamilton.[8] Cowell took a few menial jobs—including, according to Tony, working as a runner on Stanley Kubrick's The Shining[9]—but did not get along well with colleagues and bosses, until his father who was executive at the recording giant EMI Music Publishing, managed to get him a job in the mail room.[10]


Cowell's father's connections originally got him rehired as the assistant to an A&R man. From there onwards, Simon worked his way up and eventually got promoted to a music publishing[11] position but left during the early 1980s to form E&S Music with his boss at EMI, Ellis Rich (later Chairman of the Performing Right Society). The company had several hit records at one point with five singles in the UK top 40. The offices were in a converted gentleman's washroom in the NCP car park on Brewer Street in London's Soho district. Cowell left by mutual agreement a few years later. He worked for Iain Burton, manager of choreographer Arlene Phillips, co-founder of dance group Hot Gossip and of nascent independent record label Fanfare Records. Cowell worked with Burton for eight years at Fanfare where he achieved his first real success in the music industry, becoming a partner and building Fanfare into a highly successful 'indie' pop label. Fanfare had numerous top ten hits with various pop artists and particularly Sinitta, selling more than 500,000 copies of her debut single "So Macho", and more than 500,000 copies of her album Rondo Veneziano.[12] Next in 1984, Cowell and Burton met up with Pete Waterman for the first time.

Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman formed the songwriting and record producing trio known as Stock Aitken Waterman.[13] Stock Aitken Waterman helped Fanfare during the second half of the 1980s producing several hit singles for Sinitta and licensing The Hit Factory SAW Compilation Albums to Fanfare. Next in 1989, Fanfare's parent, Public Company, found itself in difficulties, forcing Fanfare into the hands of BMG, and an in-debt Cowell was forced to move back in with his parents. Later that year, he became an A&R consultant for BMG.

Subsequently, Cowell signed up a number of acts to S-Records that became successful, including Curiosity Killed the Cat, Sonia, Five, Westlife, Robson & Jerome, and Ultimate Kaos. He also released several novelty recordings featuring the likes of Teletubbies, wrestlers of WWE[14] Zig and Zag and the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, that were huge successes.[3] In 2002, Cowell set up another label, Syco Music, which later became part of Columbia Records and Sony BMG Music Entertainment. Artists such as Leona Lewis, Il Divo and contestants from The X Factor and America's Got Talent are released on Syco. Cowell explained, "There has to come a point when I will step down from being on camera and remain behind the scenes because you can't keep doing this forever...I think by [the end of my contract] that the public will be sick to death of me anyway and it will be time to go."[15]

In 2006, Cowell signed to two more record-breaking deals. In the USA, he agreed to remain as a judge on American Idol, earning £20 million (US$33 million) per season for another five years. He also has a deal with FOX which allows his production company to broadcast Got Talent and American Inventor on other networks, but he may not appear on them. In the UK, he signed a "golden handcuffs" deal with ITV, worth approximately £6.5 million a year for three years, which gave ITV rights to his talent show The X Factor, a British singing talent show, and Grease Is the Word, a musical talent show to find the stars of a Grease production in London's West End. In late 2005, he signed a new contract to remain working for Sony BMG.

In 2010, Cowell finalised a deal which secures the long-term business future of Syco with Sony Music Entertainment.[16] The deal will also see him launching a US version of X Factor on 21 September 2011.[17]

Idol franchise and Il Divo

Cowell was given the role of judge on the first series of Pop Idol by then ITV Controller of Entertainment Claudia Rosencrantz[18] in 2001, he was then judge on the first season of American Idol in 2002. With his notoriously critical reputation, Cowell is likened to TV personalities, such as Judge Judy, and Weakest Link's Anne Robinson. Though comparable to Anne Robinson, Cowell has expressed his dislike for her and has commented in an interview, "I hate her and I hate her show because it's just an act".[19] Cowell's prominence grew, fed by his signature phrase, "I don't mean to be rude, but ...", inevitably followed by an unsparingly blunt appraisal of the contestant's talents, personality, or even physical appearance. A lot of these one-liners were the product of coaching that Cowell received from noted publicist Max Clifford.[20] Cowell also appeared on the one-off World Idol programme in 2003, where it became clear that each country's version of the Idol had attempted to come up with its own "Simon Cowell" type personality. In 2003, Cowell placed No 33 on Channel 4's list of the all-time 100 Worst Britons. Cowell's S Records signed the top two finishers of the first season of Pop Idol, Will Young and Gareth Gates, both of whom went on to have No 1 UK hits. Efforts begun in 2001 materialised in 2004, when Cowell returned to his group manufacturing roots with his latest brainchild, the internationally successful operatic pop group Il Divo,[21][22] consisting of three opera singers and one pop singer of four different nationalities. Inspired by the success of Il Divo, Simon created a child version, Angelis, beating competition from many similar groups emerging at Christmas 2006.

On 11 January 2010, Cowell's exit from American Idol was made official. The 2010 season was Cowell's last on the show. It was also announced that Fox has acquired the rights to an American version of Cowell's popular British show, The X Factor, which is slated to begin production in autumn 2011.[23][24]

The X Factor

In 2004, with Sharon Osbourne and Louis Walsh, Cowell was a judge on the first series of the British television music competition The X Factor, which he created using his production company, Syco. The X Factor was an instant success with the viewers and will begin its eighth series in 2011.

Leona Lewis, the winner of the third series of The X Factor, was signed to Cowell's label Syco and has gone on to become an international star,[citation needed] with number one singles and album sales around the world. Cowell returned for a fourth series on 18 August 2007 alongside Osbourne, Walsh and new judge, Dannii Minogue. Walsh had previously been sacked from the judging panel by Cowell for the fourth series, and was subsequently replaced by Brian Friedman, who was a judge on Grease Is the Word. Walsh was later brought back a week into the auditions by Cowell when he and Osbourne realised that they missed Walsh and that without him, there was no chemistry between the judges. Cowell returned for the fifth series in 2008, with Walsh, Minogue and new judge Cheryl Cole, as Sharon Osbourne decided to quit before the show began.[25][26]

The X Factor returned to Australian television for its second season on 30 August 2010, with Kyle Sandilands, Ronan Keating, Guy Sebastian and Natalie Imbruglia as judges.[27] Matthew Newton will host the show.[28] Season 3 began on 29 August 2010.

Cowell also launched The X Factor USA in September 2011 on American broadcaster Fox. It was originally announced that he would be a judge both on the UK and US editions of the show, which air at similar times of the year,[16][17] but MTV officially reported on 17 April 2011 that this was not true; Cowell is longer a judge in the UK version,[29] but instead will be an enormous presence backstage.[30]

In October 2010, Cowell signed new three-year deals with ITV for both Britain's Got Talent and The X Factor, renewing both shows until 2013.[31]

Got Talent franchise

Following the success of the Idol and X-Factor franchises, Cowell, his company Syco, and its business partners developed a talent show format open to performers of any kind, not only singers, but also dancers, instrumentalists, magicians, comedians, novelty acts, and so on. The origins of the Got Talent format can be traced to the British show Opportunity Knocks, which began as a radio programme in the 1940s and later transferred to television, where it was an ITV staple for several decades. Looking further back, Opportunity Knocks had its roots in the variety show traditions of British music hall and American vaudeville.

Cowell is the executive producer of America's Got Talent,[32] which debuted in June 2006, along with Fremantle producers of the Idol series, but he does not appear on the show due to the terms of his American Idol contract. The show was a huge success for NBC, drawing around 12 million viewers a week, and beating So You Think You Can Dance on FOX (produced by rival and Idol creator Simon Fuller).

Britain's Got Talent[33] debuted on ITV in June 2007. Cowell appears as a judge alongside Amanda Holden and Piers Morgan. The show was a ratings success and second and third seasons followed in 2008 and 2009. The third series featured a publicity coup when Susan Boyle[33][34][35] made a global media impact with her regional audition performance comparable to that of any previous talent show series winner.

American Inventor

On 16 March 2006, Simon Cowell's next competition show, American Inventor,[36][37] debuted on ABC. Fledgling entrepreneurs from across the United States competed to see who could come up with the best new product concept. The 2006 winner, Janusz Liberkowski,[38][39] received $1 million and the opportunity to develop his idea into a business. The show returned one more time in 2007 for a second season.

Celebrity Duets

In 2006, Cowell executive-produced Celebrity Duets,[40] which was described as "an Idol show for Hollywood superstars." The show was hosted by Wayne Brady, and its judges were Marie Osmond, Little Richard[41] and David Foster.

Grease Is the Word

Cowell was also the executive producer of Grease Is the Word for ITV. This show set out to find performers to play Danny and Sandy in the 2007 West End revival of Grease. It was hosted by Zoe Ball and judged by Britons David Ian and Sinitta and Americans David Gest and Brian Friedman. The musical theatre casting concept had already been introduced by the BBC with the ratings hit How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?, but Cowell's show was not the hoped for success. He himself said, "It has been slaughtered by the critics – and rightly so. It is far too similar to our other formats."[42]

Rock Rivals

Cowell collaborated with UK production company Shed Media to produce 2008 ITV drama series Rock Rivals, which is based on an X Factor type show.

Other activities

Cowell has been involved in charity work for many years.[43] He supports children from The Association Of Children's Hospices and invites them backstage to the screenings of The X Factor.[44] When he can, he stops by some of the hospices to visit the children.[44] He also supports animal rights and has appeared in a video for PETA in which he reminds drivers of the cruelty to animals that can occur when their pets are locked in cars in the summer.[45][46] In view of his charitable works, particularly the production of the charity single Everybody Hurts in aid of victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, as well as his services to the music industry, there was considerable media speculation as to whether Cowell would receive a knighthood in the Queen's 2010 Birthday Honours, a proposal allegedly put forward by former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.[47] Cowell stated that he believed his chances of receiving the honour were "zero" following what he described as being a "royal row";[48] ultimately Cowell did not receive an honour in the list.

In December 2003, Cowell published his autobiography titled I Don't Mean to be Rude, but.... In it, he told the whole story of his childhood, his years working in music and experiences on Pop Idol, Pop Stars Rivals, and American Idol, and finally, his tips for being successful as a pop star.

Cowell has appeared as a guest voice in an episode of The Simpsons ("Smart and Smarter"), in which he gets beaten up by Homer Simpson (while criticising Homer's punches).[49][50] His voice was also heard on an episode of Family Guy ("Lois Kills Stewie"), in which he told Stewie that his singing was so awful that he should be dead.[51][52][53] He made an MTV Movie Award-winning cameo appearance as himself in Scary Movie 3, where he sits in judgment during a battle rap (and subsequently gets killed by gunfire for criticising the rappers). He also appears in the DVD version of Shrek 2 as a judge in Far Far Away Idol, and also provided the voice.[54]

He appeared on an episode of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? (the original British version) and Saturday Night Live in 2004. Cowell has also guest-starred (filling in for Regis Philbin) in the popular talk show Live with Regis and Kelly during American Idol's finalist week in early 2006. Cowell was once the fastest "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" on BBC's motoring show Top Gear, driving a Suzuki Liana around the show's test track in a time of 1:47.1. When Top Gear retired the Liana along with its rankings after the eighth series, Cowell was the eighth fastest overall and the third fastest non-professional driver. On 11 November 2007 Cowell yet again appeared on Top Gear, achieving a time of 1:45.9 thus putting him ahead of Gordon Ramsay and back at the top of the table.[55] Cowell introduced entertainer Dick Clark at the 2006 Primetime Emmy Awards. He was seen on Comic Relief Does The Apprentice where he donated £25,000 for a fun fair ticket. Cowell has also appeared on the MTV shows Cribs and Punk'd. On Punk'd, Ryan Seacrest and Randy Jackson set him up to believe his $400,000 Rolls Royce was stolen and had caused an accident by using a nearly identical car.[56]

Cowell was chosen as the first subject of the re-launched This Is Your Life in an episode broadcast on 2 June 2007. He was presented with the Red Book by Sir Trevor McDonald while presenting American Idol.[57]

On 1 July 2007 Cowell appeared alongside Randy Jackson and Ryan Seacrest as a speaker at the Concert For Diana, held at Wembley Stadium.

Simon Cowell was a partner in the Royal Ascot Racing Club, a thoroughbred horse racing syndicate which owned the 2005 Epsom Derby winner, Motivator.[58]

In May 2010, he portrayed himself again, in another episode of The Simpsons, "Judge Me Tender".

In December 2010, he was added as a new entry to the latest edition of Who's Who.[59]

Personal life

Cowell became engaged to make up artist Mezhgan Hussainy in February 2010. They met on the set of American Idol.[60] Cowell is the godfather of pop singer Sinitta's adopted children.[61]

Upon his appearance on Top Gear, it was revealed that Cowell pays more than £21.7m per year in income tax, suggesting that his taxable income is over £54.25m per year with income tax at the time approximately 40%.[62][63] (NB: UK Income Tax 40% for earnings over £34,600). Cowell was estimated to have a fortune of £200 million in the Sunday Times Rich List of 2011, making him the sixth richest person in the British music industry.[64] Cowell has a $22 million, 11,550 sq ft (1,073 m2) home in Beverly Hills.[65]

Cowell has admitted to using Botox.[66]

In May 2009, in the Daily Mail tabloid newspaper, Cowell revealed that he is often plagued by "dark moods and miserable thoughts". He claims that he has considered seeking therapy for this, stating that it would be a 'long session'.[67]

Political views

Cowell is a supporter of the Conservative Party. In 2010, Cowell endorsed David Cameron to be Prime Minister and claimed that he has the 'substance and the stomach to navigate us through difficult times'.[68] In the aftermath of the election, it was reported that he had fallen out with fellow X Factor judge Cheryl Cole (who had declared her support for Labour and Gordon Brown) in a telephone conversation about politics.[69]


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External links

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