Simon Cowell - Biography
He can't sing or play an instrument, doesn't know how to use an iPod and prefers watching TV to listening to CDs – yet it's the music industry that has made Simon Cowell his fortune. Albeit with a few bumps along the way...
Brighton, East Sussex, United Kingdom
Born in 7 October 1959, the music mogul had a comfortable, middle class upbringing as the son of Eric and Julie Cowell. His dad was on the board of directors for record label EMI, running the company's property division.
Early signs of Simon's famously critical eye came, he remembers, at the tender age of four when he looked at his mother's white fuzzy pillbox hat and remarked, "Mum, you look like a poodle".
After he dropped out of school, Julie – whom he says he takes after and is famously close to – got him his first step on the ladder. She saw an ad for a job in EMI's mail room and filled in an application for him.
He got the job and worked as a post boy until his father's connections got him re-hired as an assistant with responsibility for scouting new talent and artist development.
Simon left EMI during the early Eighties to form independent label E&S Music but this folded within a year. In 1985 he bounced back forming Fanfare Records.
The company enjoyed a string of successes with artists like Sinitta, who was his girlfriend at the time, but in 1989 Fanfare, too, folded, leaving Simon bankrupt, deeply in debt and back home living with his parents.
Rather than feeling embarrassed at his misfortune, however, Simon said it was in fact "a relief": "Everything went – my house, my Porsche, all the things I thought were important. I had nice food every night at home. I was quite happy, really."
With his next company S Records label he signed Curiosity Killed The Cat, 5ive, Westlife and Robson and Jerome – whose version of the Righteous Brothers hit Unchained Melody became the top-selling single of 1995.
Simon also managed to corner the market for novelty records, signing the music rights to Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Teletubbies and the World Wrestling Federation.
While some in the industry may have looked down their noses at his choices Simon says he's not snobbish about music. "My talent is for creating things the public will like," he says. "I'm interested only in making money, for myself, and the people I work for. I mean, that's absolutely the only criterion I attach."
In 2002, he set up another label, Syco Records, which would make him a multi-millionaire. But while he's had success since with artists like classical group Il Divo, it's his talent TV shows that have helped him make his mark.
Together with Spice Girls manager Simon Fuller, he created Pop Idol, serving as a judge for the first season in 2001. The show was a huge success, largely thanks to Simon's acerbic contributions.
With his derogatory comments and the catchphrase "I don't mean to be rude, but...", not to mention his penchant for tight t-shirts and high-waisted trousers, he became a national celebrity overnight.
In June 2002 America's Fox network picked up the show. US audiences loved it and Simon was instantly propelled to A-list status. Over 26 million viewers were tuning in at the end of the first season when Kelly Clarkson was announced the winner.
A canny businessman, Simon also released Idol-related records, while Simon Fuller owned part of the show and managed winners' careers.
The talent shows, which include, of course, X Factor and America's Got Talent have swelled his bank balance considerably. In 2006, Simon agreed to remain as a judge on American Idol for the princely sum of £20 million per series for another five years while in the UK he signed a three-year "golden handcuffs" deal with ITV worth £20 million.
His indulgences are houses and cars, of which he owns several, and the hard-working vegetarian takes just one holiday a year – usually to Barbados, where he has a luxury villa.
Simon always declared himself unwilling to settle down and have children. This was probably why his long-term relationship with model Terri Seymour came to an end in 2009. "I don't think I would be great marriage material. I don't think I'm that reliable," he told one US publication.
The mogul subsequently became engaged to Afghanistan-born makeup artist Mezhgan Hussainy but that romance floundered shortly afterwards too.
In 2013, he announced that American socialite Lauren Silverman was expecting his first child, a boy named after Simon's father Eric, born on Valentine's Day 2014.
Their relationship began while he was still close friends with her husband Andrew Silverman, which Simon admitted that he regretted. "It is not something I am proud of or wanted to happen in terms of hurting anyone. It just happened," he said.
However, the outcome changed in his life in the most positive way.
"Meeting Lauren and becoming a dad was the most fantastic thing to happen in my life. It's hard when you have kids at my age but it's amazing. When you work as hard as I do, you think, 'What's it all going to be for at the end?' Then somebody like him comes along and it's all worthwhile."