Simon Cowell’s surprising fall from grace
Having sold millions of records and racked up a vast fortune in the process, Simon Cowell's sudden exit from his own music company lays bare how dramatic his fall from grace has been.
The famous record boss, who once had pop's Midas touch, decided to offload his stake in record company Syco to Sony - signalling the final surrender of his grasp on the charts.
His move this week is the end of an era which has seen global success with acts including One Direction, Little Mix, Westlife and Leona Lewis, who have sold almost 200 million records between them.
But despite Simon's showbiz smile and a personal wealth of almost $AU700 million, those in the industry have long suspected the wheels were about to fall off the Syco juggernaut - not least as its sales figures plummeted and disquiet among big names sparked a mass exodus of talent.
As ratings for his biggest show, UK's The X Factor, began to slide from highs of almost 20 million viewers in 2011, his relationships with his top star names began to sour.
When The Sun told last year how Little Mix had quit the label in a fit of fury, it marked the beginning of the end for one of the most lucrative record companies of the modern era.
The latest blow - the exit of Louis Tomlinson, the last member of pop sensation One Direction signed to Syco after his bandmates steadily jumped ship - confirmed what many had long anticipated.
A carefully prepared statement issued to the trade press this week announced the end of Simon's reign at the head of the firm but avoided spelling out the situation too clearly.
But as one source explained: "This is pretty much a surrender.
"Simon made millions from pop records and had a real knack for spotting the next big thing - but he has missed the boat on what people are looking for now.
"The last few years have just been flop after flop, and it's obvious that isn't about to change. He also had an arrangement with Sony where they picked up a lot of the costs which let him make vast profits.
"At other labels the likes of Ed Sheeran, Justin Bieber and Dua Lipa have been reinventing what the charts look like, and Syco has been totally left behind. They feel like something from a different era.
"Someone has pulled the plug and said enough is enough - it's over."
Simon's knack for creating popular acts once enabled him to have hits with unlikely chart toppers such as the Teletubbies, who he propelled to a surprise UK number one in 1997 with the novelty song Say Eh-Oh!
But recent signings from UK's X Factor have failed to match the success of One Direction, who this week would celebrate the tenth anniversary of their formation on the talent show.
Rows with one-time stalwarts of the Syco family including Little Mix, Olly Murs and Leona Lewis hint at a growing frustration over top talent who felt they could be better served elsewhere.
And a string of bids to manufacture fresh pop groups away from his TV shows have also failed to make a mark on the charts.
Meanwhile, the endless format changes on The X Factor were a frantic attempt to revive its fortunes.
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One insider added: "It has just become frenetic. Simon has been throwing the kitchen sink at things on a whim just to try to save something that should have been allowed to end with dignity ages ago.
"There were times when he announced plans without even discussing them with other big players first, and suddenly [TV network] ITV's executives were left scratching their heads and picking up the pieces."
But away from the cameras and the showbiz spotlight, 60-year-old Simon was juggling a total overhaul of his busy personal life.
Once an obsessive workaholic who stayed up all night and slept all day, his lifestyle has undergone a dramatic transformation triggered, according to those close to him, by a string of health scares.
At auditions for Britain's Got Talent in February - his last major public appearance - he cut a strikingly slender figure with an undeniably puffier look to his features.
Details of any surgical interventions have always been firmly batted away by Simon's publicity machine, but this week Kelly Osbourne - daughter of his long-time pal and X Factor co-judge Sharon - claimed on US TV he has undergone three facelifts.
Many close to him believe a fall at his London home in 2017 sparked the beginning of a major change.
He toppled down the stairs in a bizarre accident, prompting his bodyguard to call an ambulance.
The mogul was stretchered away to hospital in a neck brace - and later explained he had been fetching a glass of milk at around 7am.
Speaking to The Sun, he admitted he had been "overtired" but insisted the incident was a "wake-up call".
Since then he has spoken of drastic lifestyle changes - losing around 25kg by cutting sugar, attempting to adopt a vegan diet and taking up cycling.
Sources suggest he has also wound down his partying.
One said: "Until recently Simon has always lived pretty hard. He loved drinking, cigarettes and staying up late partying.
"He's had to wind that down. It was taking its toll and he knew it.
"Simon would be working at all hours of the night, too - coming up with wild ideas and calling his team to order them to start on his latest project, no matter what time it was.
"That's all stopped. Now he spends most of his time living quietly with his partner and their son."
But despite happy snaps of the family on countless holidays, and a close bond with six-year-old son Eric, his romance with Lauren Silverman - who he met while she was married to one of his male friends - has been dogged by whispers of trouble in paradise.
His Britain's Got Talent co-star Amanda Holden was dragged into the saga when her daughter Hollie, in a live Instagram session, claimed Simon and Lauren, 42, had split up.
The incident prompted frantic denials from mortified Amanda and a rapid statement from the couple's spokesman, but it only added fuel to the fire.
Claims Lauren confronted several of his female co-stars over their closeness to Simon raised more eyebrows among those in the industry.
Insiders say the pair's relationship remains on track but can be "tricky at times", particularly for a man who has always been used to focusing all of his attentions on his professional ambition.
An uncomfortable business relationship with his former friend Sir Philip Green also caused embarrassment and prompted him to fork out a huge sum to buy back the scandal-ridden retailer's five-per-cent stake in Syco.
After a host of claims against the Topshop boss, including pension irregularities and a video that emerged of him verbally abusing a female employee, Simon paid an estimated $AU10 million for the small slice to clear up the awkward association.
It was the last thing Simon needed at a difficult time for his firm.
Others say his attention has been increasingly diverted away from his music business by his efforts to stay relevant in the TV entertainment race.
A string of flop programs only served to spark further fears his TV empire could stall without another major hit - after becoming increasingly dependent on its one remaining ratings winner Got Talent, which airs globally.
As one source explains: "Simon is still a showman.
"But it doesn't take much to scratch below the surface and see that things haven't been going well. This really feels like crisis point."
This story originally appeared on The Sun and is republished here with permission.
Originally published as Simon Cowell's surprising fall from grace