Simon Cowell, Sony ink global joint venture


LONDON -- Just days after he announced he was quitting "American Idol," Simon Cowell announced a new five-year joint venture with Sony that will pool the television and music assets of global TV formats "The X Factor" and "Got Talent," as well as a musical roster including such stars as Leona Lewis, Susan Boyle and Il Divo.

The deal will see Cowell regain partial control of the assets of his production company Syco, until now 100% owned by Sony.

Under the terms of the new deal, Sony will swap its 100% ownership of Syco for a 50% share in a wider media and entertainment vehicle, which will also count British retail magnate Philip Green as a shareholder and advisor to Cowell.

The deal marks a new start for Cowell, the Pied Piper of entertainment, whose acerbic commentary, rolling eyes and merciless critiques have crushed the dreams of hundreds of eager hopefuls and won ratings avalanches on both sides of the Atlantic.

It sees him break from his long term collaborator/competitor Simon Fuller, creator of the Spice Girls pop sensation and power behind 19 Entertainment, which produced the "Idol" format that preceded the juggernaut of "X Factor" and saw Cowell become the highest paid star of reality television.

Fuller last week unveiled details of his new venture XIX, which will see him retain some rights to "Idol" as well as provide a launch for new film projects, including the upcoming "Bel Ami" starring Robert Pattinson.

Based in London and L.A., the new Cowell-backed Syco is pledged to produce a broader and more international range of music, film and entertainment fare, leveraging the artists discovered as part of the talent show formats and developing new media and roadhsow vehicles.

The forthcoming Fox version of "The X Factor," due to air in the fall of 2011 with Cowell as executive producer and judge, is included in the deal. The global show airs in 17 countries, with the U.K. version securing over 19 million viewers in its most recent finale, while the "Got Talent" format is on air in 27 countries worldwide.

"I have had a fantastic relationship with Sony for many years and I'm delighted we are launching this venture together," Cowell said in a statement.

Under the new partnership Cowell -- who has worked with artists selling more than 150 number one records and 180 million album sales -- will aim to "significantly grow the Syco venture, said Rolf Schmidt-Holtz, CEO, Sony Music Entertainment.

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