Born in Brighton, England in 1959, Simon Cowell is infamous as the American Idol judge who uses blunt and often controversial criticisms about contestants and their singing abilities, or lack thereof. His start in the business as an assistant to an A&R (Artists and Repertoire) executive.
After years of working his way up the latter, he became the A&R man for BMG records where he discovered and signed such acts as Five and Westlife. After the success of Pop Idol in England in 2001, Cowell took the hit idea to America and called it American Idol. The show (and Cowell) became an instant sensation and Cowell went on to receive critical acclaim for his signature phrase "I don't mean to be rude, but…" In 2004, he expanded his empire to include FOX's The X Factor and in 2006 American Inventor and later America's Got Talent.
In 2008, Cowell split from his long-time girlfriend, Extra correspondent Terri Seymour.