Before Simon Cowell was giving out golden buzzers on NBC's America's Got Talent, he was being brutally honest on the hit show American Idol. There, the judge collected roughly $36 million per season thanks to the show's insane popularity. But in 2010, Simon announced that he was leaving the singing competition (and that hefty salary) behind. Naturally, the question became ... why?
To be clear, Idol wasn't Simon's only gig at the time. As the brains behind the British entertainment company Syco Entertainment, the talent executive was also working on two other wildly successful franchises that he had created - Got Talent and the British reality series The X Factor.
After America's Got Talentlaunched in 2006 and garnered success, he became eager to bring The X Factor to the States. Simon oversaw the launch of America's The X Factor in 2011 and stayed on as a judge until the program was canceled in 2014. Then, in 2016, Simon replaced Howard Stern as a judge on America's Got Talent.
While Simon may have cited The X Factor as the reason for walking away in 2010, he seems to have changed his tune over the years. In March 2019, he told Hollywood Life that the age restrictions on Idol were actually a huge factor in his decision to leave.
“How can you say, ‘You can’t be a star [because of your age],’” Simon explained. “And I found the word ‘Idol’ obnoxious to be honest with you. And why isn’t a 35-year-old as great as an 18-year-old? It just got to the point where this is not real, which is why I moved on.”
Back when Simon was judging on American Idol, the show required contestants to be between 16 to 24 years old. After season three, the limit was then pushed to 28. Today, the show requires contestants be between 15 to 28 years old. AGT, meanwhile, has no age requirement.
Apart from the age restrictions though, Simon has made it clear that he really enjoyed his eight years on the singing competition.
“We speak, hangout, and talk," Simon said about the artists he helped discover on Idol. "I had the good years!”
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