What You Don't Know About Simon Fuller
His friends describe him as "thoughtful," "strategic," "visionary" and "magnetic." But when pressed, even people who have known Simon Fuller for decades confess that the quiet-spoken enigma is nearly impossible to pin down. "I've worked with him for longer than I care to mention," says one person with whom Fuller has done deals. "But I can't say honestly that I know him." The 51-year-old Briton has proved to be the master puppeteer of our times, confidently reinventing the zeitgeist again and again. Starting his career at Chrysalis Records in the mid-'80s, Fuller discovered musician-composer Paul Hardcastle and formed the management firm 19 Entertainment. Over two roller-coaster decades, he went from building the pop act Spice Girls to launching the television show S Club 7 to creating Pop Idol and So You Think You Can Dance before selling the business to CKx Inc. in 2005 and launching XIX Entertainment. Meanwhile, he has represented clients ranging from fashion designers to race car drivers, and his newest venture is the Latin American music talent competition Q'Viva with Jennifer Lopez and her husband Marc Anthony (still being shopped). Fuller's estimated worth is a cool $570 million, a moguldom matched only by his very unmogul-like avoidance of the limelight. An inner circle of friends and colleagues has allowed him to perfectly meld the personal and professional -- tweaks for a new show might be ironed out over dinner at his home in the south of France -- and colleagues routinely become part of the family. On the eve of his May 23 star ceremony, his pals offered these toasts to Fuller.
Composer and musician
"Simon is a special person; we first worked together in the 1980s when he was starting his business; he named the company after my song "19." It was great to have someone so young and energetic pushing the business side of it. He's unusual in his approach because he always thinks through what he's doing and is very logical and strategic. He's good at giving his artists the confidence and freedom to follow their own instincts. He's supported me all the way, and the record went to No.1 in the States and the U.K., so it really started both our careers off with a bang. He fully deserves the recognition he's getting in America, even though I know he'll be slightly embarrassed by it."
Chairman and CEO, Universal Music Group
"I met Simon for the first time in 1981 at a Stray Cats gig in London. Simon had already earned a reputation for being a competitor. We were both talent scouts at the time, and what became immediately apparent was that we both shared a real passion for discovering and nurturing great talent -- and making deals. The quality and ingenuity of the events that Simon has created with the Spice Girls and American Idol have defined not only the audio soundtrack of people's lives but the visual one as well. He's a creative pioneer."
The Prince's Trust
"Simon deserves recognition as a great entrepreneur who is a genius of creativity and marketing. But I suspect that his considerable charitable work is less well known, not least because he is so self-effacing and modest. All the more reason, then, that he should be celebrated, and therefore I am delighted to have this opportunity to pay my own tribute to Simon for all that he has done for my Prince's Trust and many other charitable causes. Simon has a huge capacity to use his talent in order to help others most in need. In the United Kingdom, he has been one of the most effective ambassadors for my trust, which I set up to help the most disadvantaged people in the United Kingdom. He has helped me stage several fundraising events, and I can only say that his support and expertise have always been utterly invaluable."
Eecutive producer, American Idol
"When I first met him in 2001, he was exactly what I expected him to be. He had a fabulous office on the river in London, in Fulham. He looked every bit the wealthy musical entrepreneur. He was a little bit younger than I expected, to be truthful. He was a very nice man, very reasonable, obviously very intelligent. I can honestly say that I've never had an argument with him since Day 1, and that was 10 years ago."
Chairman and CEO of Columbia/Epic Label Group
"I first met Simon 23 years ago. Even way back then it was clear that he had a well-rounded vision of the whole business as he managed artists, producers and writers at a very young age. He was ahead of his time then and subsequently built his company from those early multidimensional foundations into what it is today."
"I can easily calculate how long I've known Simon by the age of my eldest daughter, Lola, who arrived on the planet a few months after I first met him. I was looking for a manager and had asked my lawyer, Andy Stinson, if he could put a list together of people he knew of who might be good contenders for the job. Andy came up with a list of 12 names, with descriptions of their backgrounds, etc. Simon looked like the most interesting, so he was the first one I got in contact with. He came over to my house, and we had a meeting, with me heavily pregnant and reclining on the sofa. And that was that. I didn't even bother to call anyone else. I just knew that he was going to be my manager right there and then. This was Simon before he became the Simon Fuller that everyone's heard of, and this was me before I recorded Diva. Twenty years later, and a lot of things have happened. Now he has a little daughter, and I get to be Auntie Annie."
Former British prime minister
"Britain has a long history of innovators and pioneers who have taken an idea and made it resonate in every language, and Simon is really part of that proud heritage. His idea was that in small towns all across the world, people living ordinary lives have extraordinary talent, and all they need is the courage and the chance to show what they can do. He knew that TV audiences would be entertained and inspired by these people making the most of their talents."
President of alternative entertainment, Fox Broadcasting Co.
"In October or November 2001, Simon came in and pitched an American version of what was being called Pop Idol, which hadn't aired yet in England. 'The whole country will be talking about it,' he said. He pitched it with such excitement that I thought, 'This could be something that maybe would work.' I was excited about it, and from that point forward, I tried to sell it internally. He is very passionate -- but a very tough businessman behind it all. He's lovely, but don't let that fool you when you're doing business."
Host, American Idol
"Simon is the kind of guy who can sit at 40,000 feet and look at moving parts and figure out how an individual part can be put into an equation in an equal or greater sum. He does a great job studying the chess pieces and moving them around so that the board becomes more valuable."
"Simon got to know about me from his wife Natalie and from Victoria Beckham -- they loved my clothes and knew I was looking for a business partner. The first time I met him was in his office, just the two of us. A meeting of minds and good wine. When life is about rules and you meet someone who wants to re-invent them, it is incredibly inspiring and confidence building. His style sense: Discreet and powerful."
Judge, American Idol
"It's about time the man came out from under the hood. His one idea has created an international phenomenon."
Executive producer, American Idol
"When Simon first pitched me Pop Idol, I said, 'It'll never work -- you're never gonna get the public to vote.' Last week, Idol got 72 million votes. A couple of years later he said, 'We've done this with singing; we should do a dancing program,' and I said, 'No, that'll never work -- people aren't interested in dancing.' Now, So You Think You Can Dance is in over 70 countries. Thank God for Simon Fuller in my life, pushing me through. I'd have never done either of them."
Lisa Marie Presley
"Simon Fuller has been my manager for a few years now, and I am extremely lucky to be able to say that. It is highly unusual in this business to find someone who makes things happen, who is powerful and intelligent but who is also still incredibly humble, sensitive and creative. Simon also has another incredibly admirable characteristic that not many people in the business have: He is a man of little talk and of serious action. He has helped me change my life for the better in ways I had previously only dreamed possible."
Record producer, chief creative officer, Sony Music Entertainment Worldwide
"Right from its start, American Idol has had an electrifying effect on contemporary music. It celebrates the rich heritage of pop music and continually breathes new life into great standards. For this we are all indebted to Simon Fuller."
Chairman, Interscope Geffen A&M; in-house mentor, American Idol
"There are few Americans that understand the international market, and there are few guys from England that fully understand the American market. Simon is one of those rare guys that can travel both places. That always impressed me 'cause I like making music that works internationally. He does everything he says he will do, 1,000 percent. During the good days and the bad days, he's not moved on me once. That kind of person can hang out with me anytime."
Victoria and David Beckham
Singer, soccer superstar
"Simon has been our manager, business partner and close friend for 15 years. His loyalty, integrity and humility make him truly unique. He is an incredible visionary, building entertainment and fashion brands. His passion and impact on charity around the world makes us enormously proud to know him and his beautiful family."
Judge, American Idol
"What's really interesting to me is the effect that this British music genius has had on American culture. He knows a thing or two about talent. He always feels things in his gut and goes where his heart leads him."