LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - “American Idol” creator Simon Fuller has sued the Fox television network seeking credits and monetary fees for the upcoming U.S. version of TV talent show, “The X Factor.”
The breach of contract lawsuit, which became public on Wednesday, alleges that Fox, part of the News Corp media empire, and producers FremantleMedia North America, a unit of Bertelsmann AG, have refused to honor a 2005 contract granting Fuller an executive producer credit and fees for the U.S. version of “The X Factor.”
“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,” Fuller’s spokesperson said in a statement.
“The X Factor,” created by British entrepreneur Simon Cowell, is one of the most anticipated new shows on U.S. television and is due to debut in September.
Fox and Fremantle said the lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, was without merit and they expected to prevail in court.
“Mr. Fuller has not been hired, nor performed any duties, on the U.S. version of ‘The X Factor.’ His suit seeks payment and credit as an executive producer despite his neither having been approved by the required parties, nor hired, as such,” the two companies said in a statement.
The lawsuit stems from a bitter 2004 dispute between Fuller and Cowell, who was also a judge on ratings juggernaut “American Idol”, over the similarities between “Idol” and Cowell’s “X Factor” singing contest, which has been running in Britain for several years.
That dispute was settled in 2005 with a promise, Fuller claims, that he would receive an executive producer credit when “X Factor” came to the United States and a “fee for Simon Fuller that is commensurate with his duties and stature in the entertainment industry.”
Fuller alleges breach of contract and is seeking unspecified damages.
In a dig at the woes of News Corp-owned newspapers in Britain due to the current phone hacking scandal, the lawsuit says Fox and News Corp “have demonstrated a callous disregard for Fuller’s rights, which given recent developments, reflects a corporate culture — if not a pattern and practice — of wrongful behavior.”
The U.S. version of “The X Factor” premieres on Fox on September 21 and offers an unprecedented $5 million prize and recording contract for the eventual winner. It also sees the return to U.S. TV screens of the popular but acid-tongued Cowell as a judge, along with his old “Idol” sparring partner Paula Abdul.
Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte, Andre Grenon and Richard Chang