The battle between two of the music industry’s biggest titans has been reignited.
Simon Fuller, the creator of American Idol, has filed a legal complaint against Fox Broadcasting and FremantleMedia, the network and production company behind The X Factor USA.
Fuller says the companies have failed to honour an agreement from a previous copyright lawsuit he filed against Simon Cowell’s rival reality show in the UK in 2005 which claimed that his rival and employee had copied his idea for the talent series.
The 51-year-old settled his $140 million lawsuit out of court at the time, agreeing to receiving ten per cent of the earnings, an executive producer credit and the terms that Cowell, also 51, could not launch The X Factor in the US for five years.
Now, with the American version under way, Fuller is taking his battle Stateside.
In a statement released to Deadline today, Fuller’s publicist said, ‘Today Simon Fuller filed a legal complaint against Fox Broadcasting Company and Fremantle in the State of California over their refusal to honor a 2005 contract that granted Mr Fuller an executive producer credit and fees on the X Factor television program in the U.S.
‘Mr. Fuller has prudently attempted to settle this matter privately but the other parties have refused to honor the original contract leaving him no other choice but to pursue legal action.’
Fox and Fremantle have hit back, issuing their own statement, which reads, ‘Mr. Fuller has not been hired, nor performed any duties, on the U.S. version of The X Factor.
‘His suit seeks payment and credit as an executive producer despite his neither having been approved by the required parties, nor hired, as such.
‘We believe this lawsuit is without merit and we expect to prevail.’
Fuller’s complaint states, ‘Fox and Fremantle made hundreds of millions of dollars thanks to the creative efforts of Fuller.
‘Now, when it is time to finally perform on these unequivocal promises, Fox and Fremantle refuse to provide Fuller his executive producer credit for Defendants’ new television show, The X Factor, and refuse to pay Fuller and executive producer fee ‘commensurate with his duties and stature in the entertainment industry.’
‘Defendants refusal to honour their promises made to Fuller is particularly malicious given that but for Fuller’s agreement, the X Factor show would not be able to broadcast in the United States at all.’
Fuller, the man behind the Spice Girls, S Club 7, David and Victoria Beckham and Amy Winehouse, was understood to be furious when, after he brought him fame and fortune on Pop Idol and later American Idol, Cowell announced plans for his own series.
‘He thought that was the ultimate in disloyalty and betrayal,’ a source at 19 Entertainment said in October. ‘He felt he had created Simon Cowell, helped turn him into a household name with Idol and earned him millions to boot, and Cowell had turned around and virtually copied his idea for a show and stabbed him in the back.
A source close to Cowell said, ‘Simon has made a fortune for Fox through Idol. The brand may be owned by Fuller but Cowell has always been the face of Idol. He felt resentful for a long time that he was working around the clock and the bulk of the money was going into someone else’s pocket.’
Cowell is understood to be determined to topple Fuller’s staggering $500 million fortune, almost three times Cowell’s own estimated wealth.
‘When he came to Fox with the idea of bringing The X Factor to America, he had them over a barrel. Fox doesn’t really want to be paying millions to air two such similar shows but the last thing they wanted was Cowell going to a rival network.’
Since Cowell announced his departure from Idol last year to focus on bringing the X Factor Stateside, the pair have been making sniping comments about each other’s shows.
In a rare interview earlier this year, Fuller said American Idol had improved since his ‘Mr Nasty’ judge had left.
‘We wanted to lose the negativity and be more motivational,’ he said.
‘We understand this show’s success is based entirely on the authentic journey of real people with a passion and a dream, no gimmicks, no spin, no smoke and mirrors. ‘The best surprise about this new Idol season is the positivity and energy.’
The ‘positive’ vibe of the last season, with new judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, was openly mocked on the brand new preview trailer of The X Factor USA.
‘I can assure you one thing – you’ve never seen a show like this in America,’ Cowell said in another sneak peek of the upcoming series. ‘A lot is going to surprise you.’
by Lorelle Heath