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Fuller Sues Fox for 'X Factor' Slight

Complaint the latest in longstanding feud with network, Cowell

Simon Fuller, creator of "American Idol", Carrie Underwood, winner of "American Idol" Season 4 & Simon Cowell | Photo: Ray Mickshaw/WireImage

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The two Simons are at it again.

Feuding British TV producers Simon Cowell and Simon Fuller are engaged in another legal contretemps, as Fuller is suing Fox Broadcasting over Cowell’s upcoming competition series, The X Factor.

In a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Fuller asserts that Fox has gone back on an earlier agreement to give him an executive producer credit (and the fees associated with the title) on the American version of The X Factor, which was the most sought-after property in this year’s upfront.

This isn’t the first time Fuller has locked horns with Fox and the production company FremantleMedia. In 2004, the producer sued over alleged similarities between his singing competition series, Pop Idol, and Cowell’s X Factor. (The latter show was actually developed as a replacement for Pop Idol, which wrapped in 2003 after two seasons.)

Fox and Fremantle eventually reached a settlement with Fuller. According to the most recent lawsuit, the two parties agreed to grant him the desired credit in 2005. Another provision of the settlement ensured that Cowell would not launch an American version of The X Factor for at least five years.

Pop Idol was exported to these shores in 2002 under the banner American Idol. Cowell served as an Idol judge for nine seasons, before leaving the program last year. Idol was the most expensive advertising showcase on the dial last season, as an average 30-second spot cost $475,000 a pop.

Cowell will bring his caustic critical faculties to the set of The X Factor, where he’ll join forces with former Idol co-star Paula Abdul. Also on the judges’ stand are Pussycat Dolls singer Nicole Sherzinger and Epic chairman and CEO L.A. Reid.

The original version of The X Factor is a huge hit in England, delivering an average audience of 14.3 million viewers in Season 7. The Dec. 12, 2010, season finale drew 19.4 million viewers, according to the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board.

Fuller sketched out the broad outlines of the suit in a statement released Wednesday. “Mr. Fuller has prudently attempted to settle this matter privately, but the other parties have refused to honor the original contract, leaving him no other choice but to pursue legal action,” a spokesperson for Fuller said.

Fox and FremantleMedia returned fire Wednesday, saying Fuller’s case is wholly without merit.

“Mr. Fuller has not been hired, nor performed any duties, on the U.S. version of The X Factor,” the companies said in a joint statement. “His suit seeks payment and credit as an executive producer despite his neither having been approved by the required parties, nor hired, as such. We believe this lawsuit is without merit and we expect to prevail.”

While Cowell was not named in Fuller’s suit as such, the animosity between the two men has long been fodder for the gossip columns back home. Fuller was said to be furious with his former protégé when Cowell first unveiled his X Factor concept.

While Idol made Cowell a household name (and vice versa), Fuller’s the bigger wheel in England. He first caught the public’s eye in the ‘90s, when he shepherded the Spice Girls to international fame. The quintet’s 1996 debut, Spice, sold 23 million records worldwide, making it the all-time top-selling record by a “girl group.”

The Sunday Times estimates Fuller’s net worth at $608 million, while Cowell is believed to be worth $331 million. 

Fox will introduce American viewers to The X Factor in a special two-night premiere (Sept. 21 and 22).