'American Idol' creator Simon Fuller launching new company, exiting 19 Entertainment
"American Idol" creator Simon Fuller is leaving 19 Entertainment to start his own company.
Fuller, who had been looking to take over 19 Entertainment parent CKX Inc., has instead signed a consulting deal to the company that will keep him producing 19 Entertainment's "American Idol" and "So You Think You Can Dance." CKX, which is headed by media magnate Robert F.X. Sillerman, will have a right to invest in Fuller's as-yet-unnamed new company. An announcement of the new arrangement was made early today.
Fuller will also exit CKX's board of directors as well, people close to the situation said.
"As an entrepreneur I feel I am about to enter my prime years and starting a new entertainment company at this moment fills me with great excitement," Fuller said in a statement.
Sillerman said he was "delighted that going forward Simon will be free to focus his creative energy on developing new ideas and projects and that CKX has the opportunity to invest in his new business."
Fuller's departure from 19 Entertainment ends a power struggle with Sillerman that had been heating up over the last several months. Fuller had been waging a not-too-subtle campaign to unseat Sillerman, and Fuller's camp had been predicting he would be running CKX in the coming year.
In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, Sillerman dismissed the idea that Fuller would get his desk.
"Simon is much more interested in creating things than he is in meeting with analysts and handling the chores of a public company chief executive," Sillerman said. A corporate job, he added, would be a "huge waste of his talent."
Fuller's 19 Entertainment is the biggest unit of CKX. For the third quarter that ended Sept. 30, 2009, 19 Entertainment had revenues of $71.4 million, accounting for 82% of parent CKX's total revenue. The bulk of CKX's $11-million operating income for the quarter was also mostly from CKX. The company has not reported fourth-quarter results yet.
Besides 19 Entertainment, CKX also has a majority stake in Elvis Presley's Graceland mansion and an 80% interest in licensing rights to the name and image of Muhammad Ali. However, it is 19 Entertainment that accounts for most of the revenue at the company.
-- Joe Flint
Photo: Simon Fuller. Credit: Danny Moloshok / Associated Press