It’s been a week of breakups for “American Idol” creator Simon Fuller.
First, Simon Cowell announced he was leaving his job as judge on the hit Fox show. Now Fuller is parting ways with CKX Inc., which owns 19 Entertainment, producer of “American Idol” and Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance.”
Fuller’s exit to start his own entertainment production company comes just days after CKX Chief Executive Robert F.X. Sillerman told The Times that he did not think Fuller’s skills were suited to the executive suite.
Sillerman was responding to speculation that Fuller was gearing up to make a run at the top job at CKX, whose other holdings include a majority stake in Elvis Presley’s Graceland mansion and an 80% interest in licensing rights to the name and image of Muhammad Ali. However, it is 19 Entertainment that accounts for most of CKX’s revenue.
For the third quarter that ended Sept. 30, 19 Entertainment reported revenue of $71.4 million, accounting for 82% of CKX’s total revenue. The bulk of CKX’s $11 million in operating income for the quarter was also generated by 19 Entertainment. The company has not yet reported fourth-quarter results.
Besides walking away from 19 Entertainment, which he founded in 1985 and sold to Sillerman five years ago for $200 million, Fuller is stepping down from CKX’s board. He will remain involved in CKX as a consultant and will continue to work on its TV shows. CKX will have the right to invest in Fuller’s new company.
In separate interviews, Sillerman and Fuller downplayed the idea that tensions between them led to the split.
“Simon was never trying to do something adversarial to me or the company,” Sillerman said. He added that he had no knowledge that Fuller’s camp was behind rumors that the producer was looking to succeed him as CEO.
Fuller blamed the speculation that he was trying to unseat Sillerman on his own reclusive nature.
“Sometimes when you don’t speak too much, things get misconstrued or they snowball,” he said. “I’ve come out of this feeling wiser and ready for my next challenge.”
Fuller declined to provide details about his as-yet-unnamed company, except to note that it would focus on music and entertainment.
“I get to be my own man,” he said.