"American Idol" fans in the U.S. hear the name Simon and immediately think of Simon Cowell, the caustic, no-nonsense former judge on TV's top-rated show. In fact, the mastermind behind the juggernaut singing competition is Simon Fuller, a lifelong music fan who took a modern update of a simple talent show concept and made it a blockbuster TV franchise in more than 40 countries.
Fuller, who started rooting out and developing musical talent while he was in college, has proved time and again that he has his finger on the pulse of popular culture. The 51-year-old British entrepreneur played Svengali to the Spice Girls, launched massive hit shows "S Club 7" and "American Idol's" forerunner, "Pop Idol," in the United Kingdom, and managed a post-Eurythmics Annie Lennox through 20 years of solo success.
The low-key executive, who's known for pushing his stars into the spotlight while he's more at ease in the background, signed Madonna's early hit "Holiday" at Chrysalis Records in one of his first jobs. A few years later, he started his own company after discovering musician-composer Paul Hardcastle and releasing the single "19," which became an international hit. Fuller named his business 19 Entertainment after that record.
He has since managed not only musicians but also fashion designers, professional soccer and tennis players and race car drivers. Clients at his current venture, XIX Entertainment, include David Beckham and his wife, former Spice Girl Victoria, "Idol" winner Carrie Underwood and Lisa Marie Presley.
After "Idol," Fuller created "So You Think You Can Dance," showing that he was ahead of the curve on the TV audience's interest in watching fancy footwork and the competitors who were mastering it.
One of Fuller's next ventures is a Latin American music talent contest, "Q'Viva," with current "Idol" judge Jennifer Lopez and her singer-actor husband, Marc Anthony.
Fuller has been an integral part of the team that revived "Idol' in its 10th season, including shaking up the Fox series’ judging panel to include Lopez and Aerosmith's Steven Tyler. The global franchise is reported to be worth $7 billion.