Simon Cowell to Exit ‘American Idol’

American Idol judge Simon Cowell will depart from the long-running (and top-rated) reality competition series in May to launch a U.S. version of U.K. hit The X Factor, which will debut in 2011. Cowell will serve as both executive producer and judge of the U.S. version, which will feature the judges mentoring a select group of musical wannabes. Unlike Idol, there is no age limit for the participating contestants.  

“I am confident that American Idol will continue to be the No. 1 show without me,” said Cowell. “Everyone is committed to keeping it that way, and I am confident it will still thrive indefinitely. I don’t know who will replace me, but it should not be impossible to get someone who knows what he is talking about.”  

“We are committed to both Idol and The X Factor, which will air at different times of the year,” said Peter Rice, chairman, Fox Entertainment. “People love the format and we will find a way to keep it alive and well for years to come.”

There is no word from Fox on potential replacements for Cowell, or if one of the other judges on The X Factor will be Paula Abdul.

“Whatever happens, I will be working with Paula in some capacity,” said a confident Cowell.

Minus Simon Cowell, the future for the already Paula Abdul-less American Idol may not be as rosy as Fox hopes.