2ND UPDATE 1:15 PM: Simon Fuller’s legal battle with Fox and FremantleMedia is quickly turning nasty, with the two sides throwing salvos at each other. Would they be able to bury the hatchet and maintain a decent working relationship on the upcoming 11th season of American Idol while the legal fight is going on? Here is the latest: Fuller’s attorney fired back at Fox and FremantleMedia’s claims that his lawsuit is without merit. “Fox’s position that Fuller’s claim lacks merit because the parties have not “approved” him as executive producer is absurd,” Fuller’s attorney Dale Kinsella said in a statement. “Fox is contractually obligated to approve Fuller as executive producer and compensate him accordingly, and it is because of the breach of the 2005 binding agreement that the case was filed. Fox appears to be admitting openly that they have failed to honor the contract terms.” And in the end, the spat may come down to Simon vs. Simon just like the original litigation between Fuller and Cowell in the U.K. Word is the key third party that had to give approval for Fuller’s EP credit on The X Factor to go through was Cowell and he didn’t. Of course, Cowell is not part of the new lawsuit, so it will come down to dissecting any and all contingencies built into Fuller’s 2005 agreement with Fox and Fremantle.
UPDATE 10:15: Fox and FremantleMedia just issued a statement in response to Simon Fuller’s X Factor lawsuit, calling it “without merit.” Sources close to the matter indicate that the contractual promises for an EP credit made to Fuller in 2005 were always subject to approval and such approval was never granted as Fuller didn’t provide any services on The X Factor. Here is what the network and the production company said: “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. We believe this lawsuit is without merit and we expect to prevail.”
PREVIOUS 9:30 AM: The rivalry between Pop Idol/American Idol and X Factor is once again headed to court, this time on American soil. Just as Fox and FremantleMedia are prepping the September launch of Simon Cowell’s X Factor, Simon Fuller, creator and executive producer of Fox’s long-running hit American Idol, also produced by FremantleMedia, has filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against the network and the production company over the new series. The complaint, filed today at the Los Angeles Superior Court, claims that Fox and Fremantle reneged on a 2005 promise put in writing that Fuller would receive an executive producer credit and fee on an American version of X Factor. Back then, Fuller was suing Cowell in the U.K. for copyright infringement and breach of contract over what Fuller calls “striking similarities” between the Pop Idol and X Factor formats. “Fearing that Fuller’s lawsuit with Cowell could have a ruinous effect on American Idol and other business interests, Fox interceded in the dispute and brokered a settlement,” the complaint says, noting that at the time Fox already had locked the U.S. rights to X Factor. “In order to induce Fuller to give up his valuable claims in litigation, FremantleMedia North America, Inc. contractually promised that when X Factor aired in the Untied States, Fuller would receive an executive producer credit on X Factor and would be paid an executive producer fee for X Factor ‘commensurate with his duties and stature in the entertainment industry.’ Fuller settled his litigation in reliance upon these promises… Now, when it is time to finally perform on these unequivocal promises, Fox and Fremantle refuse to provide Fuller with his executive producer credit for Defendants’ new television show, X Factor, and refuse to pay Fuller an executive producer fee “commensurate with his duties and stature in the entertainment industry.” Defendants’ refusal to honor their promises made to Fuller is particularly malicious given that but for Fuller’s agreement, the X Factor show would not be able to be broadcast in the United States at all.” Fuller seeks a judicial declaration that he is entitled to an executive producer credit on X Factor as well as unspecified monetary damages, expected to run into millions of dollars. The complaint even goes political, referencing News Corp.’s recent woes stemming from the phone-tapping scandal in the U.K. “Fox, and ultimately its parent company, News Corporation, 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,” it says. The lawsuit also threatens to break the delicate balance Fox and FremantleMedia are trying to keep as they juggle American Idol and The X Factor with all the politics and big personalities involved in each, mainly Fuller and Cowell. There had already been uneasiness within the Idol camp who believe the new kid on the block is being favored over the veteran.
Here a statement from Simon Fuller’s publicist: “Today Simon Fuller filed a legal complaint against Fox Broadcasting Company and Fremantle in the State of California over their refusal to honor a 2005 contract that granted Mr. Fuller an executive producer credit and fees on the X Factor television program in the U.S. 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 rep for Fox said that the network has not seen a copy of the lawsuit yet and wouldn’t comment at this time. This is the latest controversy to befall X Factor, which went down to the wire with locking its judging panel only to change it after the first audition when Cheryl Cole was sent home, replaced by Nicole Scherzinger.