Simon Cowell — the tart-tongued British music executive who debuted the cultural phenomenon known as American Idol in 2002 — has announced that he is leaving the hit Fox show when his contract ends after the 2010 season.
He will judge and produce an American version of his British hit music show, The X Factor, on Fox in Fall 2011.
"Because of that this will be my last season on American Idol," he announced Monday at Fox's Winter Television Critics' Association press event at the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, Calif.
"I felt like doing something different," he explained. "I want to leave Idol this year bigger and better than it's been before."
As for rumors that former Idol judge Paula Abdul could serve as a judge on The X Factor, he said: "I adore Paula. Whatever happens with her, I will be working with her in some capacity because I miss her."
Rumors of Cowell, 50, exiting have been floating for weeks.
Late last year, his brother Tony said on his weekly podcast The Cowell Factor that "a press statement is being prepared which will confirm what everybody expected: Simon will leave Idol at the end of 2010 to concentrate on bringing the American version of The X Factor to U.S. TV in 2011."
Cowell was mum when new judge Ellen DeGeneres asked about his rumored departure in a recent Entertainment Weekly interview. "If Simon goes, I go!" she said. Cowell laughed and squirmed when she said that before adding: "Oh, Ellen! … That’s quite a tricky situation you've put me into! I think right now we have to concentrate on the next season and just get through that and worry about everything else afterwards."
Last September, it was announced that DeGeneres would take a permanent seat on the judging panel after Abdul quit. The show's host Ryan Seacrest also renewed his contract for the next three seasons. Last season's new addition, Kara DioGuardi and Randy Jackson are under contract until the end of the current season.
Last year, Cowell was the top earning man on prime-time U.S. Television, according to Forbes, earning an $75 million last year.
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