Simon Cowell: Why Paula Abdul's 'X Factor' Deal Closed at Last Minute

Kevin Winter / Getty
Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell make their first appearance as 'X Factor' judges

"I would've canceled" the first round of judges' auditions Sunday "if her deal hadn't closed in time," he says.

Simon Cowell blames attorneys for the fact that Paula Abdul's deal to serve as a judge on Cowell's The X Factor closed at the eleventh hour Sunday -- just as the judges' rounds of auditions were about to start.

He even said there was talk of using a guest judge, but he ultimately would have called off Sunday's auditions if Abdul's deal hadn't closed.

"I would've canceled today [if deal hadn't gone through]," Cowell told The Hollywood Reporter on Sunday at USC's Galen Center before the judges auditions began. "The issue was that these conversations had gone on long enough. It's not like I sprung this on somebody. I just thought it's time for everyone to do their job and get the deal done. I couldn't have sat in front of you lot and said [Paula] wanted to do the deal and we couldn't."

Cowell added that it was important for Abdul -- who served as a judge alongside Cowell on Fox's American Idol -- to be a part of X Factor, which debuts on Fox in September.

"I could just sense that the public would've been disappointed without Paula," Cowell said. "You see how we are; we get on really well."

As THR previously reported, talks with Abdul had not progressed as smoothly as Cowell, Fox and producer Fremantle North America might have hoped. One issue, according to sources, was an option that CBS had on Abdul based on a deal for her to participate in the short-lived CBS competition show Live to Dance. That deal, according to two sources close to X Factor, contained language that could have prevented Abdul from joining the new show. 

THR first reported that Abdul's deal closed Saturday, but Cowell on Sunday revealed that the pact was finalized at 11 p.m. Friday.

Said Cowell: "She's Paula Abdul. Nothing's ever easy, but I'm used to it."

Abdul serves as a judge alongside Cowell, Antonio "L.A." Reid and Cheryl Cole.