Simon Cowell is a British artist and repertoire ("A&R") executive for Sony BMG in the United Kingdom and a television producer, more commonly known as a judge on television programmes such as Pop Idol, The X Factor, American Idol and Britain's Got Talent.
Cowell is notorious 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, in which all of his judging is neither constructive nor positive.
He is known for combining activities in the television and music industries, having produced singles and records for various television characters.
Cowell has been the producer and the creative force of many media, most notably Pop Idol and its international offspring. Beginning particularly in the 2000s, this has brought him worldwide fame and greatly increased monetary fortune.
Simon Cowell was born in Brighton, East Sussex in the United Kingdom and brought up in Elstree, Hertfordshire. His father, Eric Philip Cowell, was a property developer and music industry executive, and his mother, Julie Brett (née Josie Dalglish) is a former dancer and socialite.
Cowell's paternal grandparents, Joseph Cowell and Esther Malinsky, were English Jews, and his maternal grandfather was Scottish.
He has three half-brothers; Michael, John (millionaire business development and marketing consultant), and Tony (co-author of Cowell's autobiography), and a half-sister, June (who lives with her Spanish daughters in Majorca, Spain), and younger brother Nicholas Cowell who is now a millionaire property magnate.
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.
In 1984, Cowell met up with Pete Waterman for the first time. Waterman was previously known for being a founding member of the Stock Aitken Waterman songwriting and record producing trio.
One year later, Cowell and Iain Burton, a fellow clerk, left EMI and formed an independent record label called Fanfare Records. Waterman helped him regain success during the second half of the 1980s.
Cowell would later describe in interviews (and in his autobiography I Don't Mean to be Rude, but...) that he learned more from Waterman in a short time than he could have in an entire career with any major label.
Fanfare enjoyed success with its artist - and Cowell's girlfriend at the time - Sinitta Malone.
His father's connections originally got him rehired as the assistant to an A&R man. From there onwards, Simon worked his way up to record producer, but left during the early 1980s to form E&S Music, an independent music company. The label folded within a year of its launch, forcing him to return to EMI.
In 1989, Fanfare's mother company folded, driving Cowell's business into bankruptcy, forcing Cowell, deeply 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 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 US, he agreed to remain as a judge on American Idol, earning £20-million ($40-million) per series 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.
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 Idols Franchise and Il Divo
Cowell became a judge on the first season of Pop Idol in 2001, and on the first season of American Idol in 2002. His bitingly critical attitude is what he is known best by, for most people.
With his notoriously critical reputation, Cowell is likened to TV personalities such as Judge Judy (aka Justice with an Attitude), and Weakest Link's Anne Robinson (aka Queen of Mean).
Though comparable to Anne Robinson, Cowell has expressed his dislike for her and has commented in an interview, "I hate her and I hate her show because it's just an act."
Cowell's fame (or infamy) grew, fed by his signature phrase, "I don't mean to be rude, but …", inevitably followed by an unsparingly blunt appraisal of the contestant's talents, personality, or even physical appearance.
Cowell also appeared on the one-off World Idol program in 2003, where it became clear that each country's version of the Idol had attempted to come up with its own "Simon Cowell" type personality.
In 2003, Cowell placed #33 on Channel 4's list of the all-time 100 Worst Britons.
Cowell's S Records signed the top two finishers of the first season of Pop Idol, Will Young and Gareth Gates, both of whom went on to have #1 UK hits.
Efforts began in 2001 materialised in 2004, when Cowell returned to his group manufacturing roots with his latest brainchild, the internationally successful operatic pop group Il Divo, consisting of three opera singers and one pop singer of four different nationalities.
Inspired by the success of Il Divo, Simon created a child version, Angelis, beating competition from many similar groups emerging at Christmas 2006.
The X Factor
In 2004, along with Sharon Osbourne and Louis Walsh, Cowell was a judge on the first series of the British talent show The X Factor, which he created using his production company, Syco.
The X Factor was an instant success with the viewers and returned three more times to its fourth series in 2007. In 2006, Cowell was voted the tenth most terrifying celebrity on television in a Radio Times poll consisting of 3,000 people.
He 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.
On March 16, 2006, Cowell's next competition show, American Inventor, debuted on ABC. Fledgling entrepreneurs from across the United States compete to see who can come up with the best new product concept.
The 2006 winner, Janusz Liberkowski, received $1-million and the opportunity to develop his idea into a business. The show returned again in 2007.
The Got Talent Franchise
Cowell is the executive producer of America's Got Talent, along with Fremantle producers of the Idol series. The show was a huge success for NBC, drawing around 12 million viewers a week, and beating So You Think You Can Dance on FOX (produced by rival and Idol creator Simon Fuller).
A British version aired in 2007, and was screened from 9 June 2007 until 17 June 2007, with ITV screening nine episodes. Fellow judges are Piers Morgan and Amanda Holden.
Cowell also executive-produces Celebrity Duets, which can be described as "an Idol show for Hollywood superstars." The show is hosted by Wayne Brady, and its judges are Marie Osmond, Little Richard and David Foster.
Grease is the Word
Cowell also executive produces Grease Is the Word for ITV. Grease is the Word is the show to find the next big stars to play Danny and Sandy on the 2007 UK west end revival of Grease.
Grease Is the Word was hosted by Zoe Ball and judged by Brits David Ian and Sinitta and Americans David Gest and Brian Friedman. The show wasn't a success, as Cowell himself admitted: "It has been slaughtered by the critics - and rightly so. It is far too similar to our other formats."
Cowell is joining forces with Shed Media, the company behind hit UK dramas Footballers' Wives and Bad Girls, to produce a new show called Rock Rivals which will be a new ITV1 drama series based on an 'X-Factor' type show.
Cowell has been involved in charity work for many years without getting much attention from the media. He supports children from The Association Of Children’s Hospices and invites them backstage to the screenings of The X Factor. When he can, he stops by some of the hospices to visit the children.
In December 2003, Cowell published a book, 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), and 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 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.
Cowell introduced entertainer Dick Clark at the 2006 Primetime Emmy Awards and also contributed in the 2006 Queens Speech to the Nation (UK) for which he chose the title music.
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 2 June 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 July 1, 2007 Cowell appeared alongside Randy Jackson and Ryan Seacrest as a speaker at the Concert For Diana, held at Wembley Stadium.
In late 2002, Cowell started dating longtime friend Terri Seymour. In 2006, British newspaper News of the World reported that he had cheated on Seymour with model and socialite Jasmine Lennard, and printed photos of her leaving his home.
Photos of a visibly irate Seymour (who was in the US when the story broke) being met at the airport by Cowell were later published in Heat Magazine. However, both Cowell and Lennard, who was also in a relationship, denied that anything untoward had occurred, and attributed the meeting to business.
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%.
He is the godfather of pop singer Sinitta's baby.