Simon Phillip Cowell (born October 7, 1959) is an English artist-and-repertoire ("A&R") executive and television personality/producer, best known as a judge on such TV shows as Pop Idol, American Idol, The X Factor, and Britain's Got Talent. He is also the owner of the television production and music publishing house Syco.
Cowell is notorious as a judge for his unsparingly blunt and often controversial criticisms, insults and wisecracks about contestants and their singing abilities, or lack thereof. He is often parodied in pop culture. He is known for combining activities in the television and music industries, having promoted singles and records for various artists, including television personalities. Having most recently featured in the seventh season of American Idol and the second series of Britain's Got Talent, Cowell is now working on the fifth series of The X Factor.
Cowell attended Dover College as did his brother, but left early before sixth form. He took a few menial jobs, but did not get along well with co-workers and bosses, until his father who was executive at the recording giant at EMI Music Publishing, managed to get him a job in the mail room.
One year later, Cowell went to work 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 half a million of her classic hit debut single 'So Macho' and more than half a million albums of 'Rondo Veneziano'.
In 1984, Cowell and Burton met up with Pete Waterman for the first time. Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman together formed the songwriting and record producing trio known as Stock Aitken Waterman . Stock Aitken Waterman helped Fanfare during the second half of the 1980s producing several smash hit singles for Sinitta and licensing The Hit Factory SAW Compilation Albums to Fanfare.
In 1989, Fanfare's parent-company, Public Company, got into difficulties, forcing Fanfare into the hands of BMG, and Cowell, in debt, 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 made a mark in the pop music world, including Curiosity Killed the Cat, Sonia Evans, Five, Westlife, Robson & Jerome, and Ultimate Kaos. He also released several novelty recordings featuring the likes of wrestlers of the World Wrestling Federation, Teletubbies, Zig and Zag and the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, that were huge successes. Cowell set up another label, Syco Records, in 2002 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.
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 ($40 million) per season for another 5 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 3 years, which gave ITV rights to his hit 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.
According to AOL News as posted on August 21, 2007, a reporter for the British newspaper The Mirror conducted an interview with Cowell in mid-August where he claimed that he would complete the three seasons remaining on his contract with American Idol and then "that was it". 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."
The winner of The X Factor third series, Leona Lewis, is signed to Cowell's label Syco and has gone on to become an international star, with number one singles and album sales around the world.
Cowell returned for a fourth series on August 18, 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 Sharon Osbourne realised they missed Walsh and that without him, there was no chemistry between the judges.
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). 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. 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 Shrek 2 as a judge in Far Far Away Idol, and also provided the voice.
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 November 11, 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. 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.
Cowell was chosen as the first 'victim' of the re-launched This Is Your Life in an episode broadcast on June 2, 2007. He was presented with the Red Book by Sir Trevor McDonald while presenting American Idol.
Besides judging unknowns of the music industry, occasionally Cowell comments on already-established pop icons. For example, he opined in Esquire magazine that Beyoncé Knowles was overrated, and that Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" was one of the best pop records ever made. Talking about Christina herself Cowell stated "She is an unbelievable talent.
On August 13, 2006, Cowell featured on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs in which he had to pick eight records he would take with him if he were to be stranded on a desert island. His choices can be seen here He was also allowed to take a book and a luxury item. For his book, he elected Hollywood Wives, by Jackie Collins, and for his luxury, a mirror.
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%. (NB: UK Income Tax 40% for earnings over £34,600).
He is the godfather of pop singer Sinitta's baby.
Simon owns and drives a Bugatti Veyron.