Simon Cowell Profile and Biography

Simon Cowell
Simon Cowell. Photo by Michael Tran / FilmMagic

Simon Cowell's Early Life

Born October 7, 1959 in Brighton, England, Simon Cowell is the son of a music industry property executive. He has three half-brothers, a half-sister, and a multi-millionaire property executive younger brother. Simon Cowell dropped out of high school at the age of 17 and performed a number of menial jobs until he found his way to a job in the mail room of EMI Music Publishing, his father's employer.

Mentoring from Pete Waterman

At EMI Simon Cowell worked his way up to being a record producer. He also met Pete Waterman, one third of the legendary Stock Aitken Waterman production team, in 1984. Cowell has said that he learned more from Pete Waterman in a very short period of time than he would be able to learn from an entire career with a major label. He formed the label Fanfare Records in 1985 with Ian Burton, and the pair achieved a series of top 10 pop hits with their artist Sinitta.

Successful Pop Music Entrepreneur

By 1989, music conglomerate BMG offered Simon Cowell a position as A&R consultant. In that role he signed such acts as 5ive and Westlife to contracts ultimately resulting in sales of over 25 million albums for his label S Records. In 2002 Simon Cowell formed the label Syco Records and signed such successful new recording acts as Il Divo and Pop Idol contestants Will Young and Gareth Gates.

He sold his share in S Records in 2003 for a reported $42 million.

Successful Television Entrepreneur

In 2001 Simon Cowell was hired along with Pete Waterman and 2 other music industry celebrities to be judges on the Pop Idol talent show in the UK. His arrestingly direct, and sometimes rude, comments in judging contestants gained Simon Cowell quick notoriety.

Seen as a key part of the show's success, he was asked to take the same role in Pop Idol's American offshoot American Idol in 2002. Simon Cowell served as a judge on American Idol for the first nine seasons. In 2004 Simon Cowell was hired to produce the show The X Factor in the UK while Pop Idol was put on hiatus. He served as a judge on the UK version of The X Factor for the first seven seasons and then left to launch the show in the US. After the US show was cancelled, he returned to judging in the UK in 2014's eleventh season.

After the success of both American Idol and X Factor, Simon Cowell and his business partners put together a new talent show that was open to performers of any kind from singers and dancers to comedians and magicians. The show was named America's Got Talent and it debuted in June 2006. In June 2007 Britain's Got Talent debuted in the UK. The third season of Britain's Got Talent gained worldwide recognition with the discovery of singer Susan Boyle. Simon Cowell has served as a judge on Britain's Got Talent for all seasons, and he joined the America's Got Talent judging panel in 2016.

Simon Cowell's Pop Music Successes


Signed Artists

Simon Cowell's TV Successes

  • Pop Idol 2001-2003
  • American Idol 2002-2016
  • The X Factor UK 2004-
  • America's Got Talent 2006-
  • American Inventor 2006-2008
  • Britain's Got Talent 2007-
  • Celebrity Duets 2006
  • The X Factor USA 2011-2013

X Factor Moves To the US

In January 2010 it was announced formally that Simon Cowell was leaving American Idol after the 2010 season. At the same time an announcement was made that Fox would broadcast a US version of X Factor with Simon Cowell as lead judge. This announcement resulted in a major reshuffling of the judges on American Idol. Only Randy Jackson remained from previous seasons.

In April 2011 Simon Cowell announced that he would no longer judge the UK version of X Factor and he would concentrate solely on the US version.

X Factor debuted in the US in September 2011 with Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, L.A. Reid, and Nicole Scherzinger in the judges seats. The show transferred successfully to the US but the judges shuffled in each season. For season two Demi Lovato and Britney Spears replaced Nicole Scherzinger and Paula Abdul. For season three Kelly Rowland and Paulina Rubio replaced Britney Spears and L.A. Reid.

One of the key selling points of the new show was a guaranteed payment of $5 million to the show's winner paid over a five year period. The first season of the show produced strong ratings, but they fell off dramatically for the second and third seasons resulting in cancellation. Like NBC's successful competition show The Voice, the US version of X Factor had difficulty producing breakout recording artists. However, second season third place finishers Fifth Harmony have become pop stars in their own right releasing the #4 charting hit single "Work From Home" in 2016 and two top 10 charting albums.

Personal Life

Simon Cowell's personal life has been the subject of intense media scrutiny. He was engaged to marry make-up artist Mezhgan Hussainy from 2010 until they broke up in 2011. In 2013, according to reports, he began dating Lauren Silverman. Her husband Andrew filed for divorce in July 2013 citing her adulterous relationship with Simon Cowell. News reports also indicated that Lauren Silverman was pregnant with Simon Cowell's child. The divorce was settled out of court in August and the baby Eric was born in February 2014.