The Simons Settle Out Of Court

Anyone in the world who cares could be left wondering if the legal spat between Simon Fuller and Simon Cowell was ever any more than a high-profile publicity stunt.

It’s been resolved by the proverbial “out-of-court settlement,” with both sides saying they’re happy with the result and insisting they’d remained friends throughout their legal wrangle.

Fuller claimed Cowell stole his TV “Pop Idol” format – and a few of his production staff – to develop his own “X-Factor” talent show, which now has a prime Saturday night slot on U.K. television. Cowell was a judge on “Pop Idol” and is currently doing the same on “American Idol,” Fox TV’s U.S. presentation of Fuller’s show.

The case reached London’s High Court November 24th and, after a couple of adjournments, it seems the lawyers managed to sort the problem without having to bother the bench for a decision.

The legal wrangle – which Cowell described as “utterly ridiculous” – had slipped off the news pages until the High Court showdown.

That showdown came after a couple of postponements and ended up coinciding with Cowell renegotiating his Fox contract.

It also coincided with Louis Walsh, Westlife’s manager and another “X Factor” judge, walking out on the programme because – during the November 19th screening – Cowell called him “an idiot” and fellow judge Sharon Osbourne threw cold water over him.

By November 24th, The Daily Mirror was reporting that Walsh’s departure “threw everyone into a state of panic” and that the studio brass was holding “crisis talks” to secure his return.

“Both Louis and Sharon Osbourne have contractual agreements to appear in next year’s series, if there is one, but Simon [Cowell] agreed to release him. Simon begged Louis not to quit because he didn’t want it to have a negative impact on the show,” the paper reported.

“It has also been pointed out to Louis that he would be in breach of contract if he just doesn’t bother to turn up.”

Walsh was back in his judge’s seat November 26th, although the Mirror reported that he’d been shifted to the smallest dressing room and he may not do another series – if there is one.

Meanwhile, the U.S. media – notably The New York Times – reported that Fox executives feared they could lose Cowell’s future services if the issue with Fuller resulted in a real High Court battle.

Even worse, apparently, was the possibility that the end of Cowell – whose barbed comments and rudeness to contestants have made him a cult figure on U.S. TV – could also mean the end of the show.

That would have been bad news for Fox. It’s been reported to be getting as much as US$700,000 for a 30-second advertisement during “American Idol,” which is even more than ABC charges for the same length slot during “Desperate Housewives.”

Anyway, disaster has been averted and the strop idols say they’re happy to continue working together. Fox has signed “American Idol” for a further run, Cowell stays on board and the world can relax – except those who are worrying about Walsh having to put up with that allegedly cupboard-sized “X Factor” dressing room.

— John Gammon