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Was Idol Saving Up Paula Cash for Simon?

Simon Cowell FOX

Everyone's favorite slurring sycophant may be gone (right?), but American Idol's resident dream crusher is just about back and raring to go.

Simon Cowell is thisclose to locking himself in for three more seasons of eye-rolling, insult-hurling, tight shirt-wearing judgment on the Paula-less reality show, making the airwaves safe for British accents until at least 2011.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Cowell—who, in a negotiating move that clearly panned out better than Abdul's, had publicly played coy about whether he would return after this spring—will be raking in $45 million a year, up from his current poverty-line-straddling rate of $36 million.

Or, for those counting at home, more than three times what Paula was seeking. Ouch.

Cowell, who began shooting the 2009 season this week, entered into negotiations with Fox for two additional seasons earlier this summer.

While show producer 19 Entertainment is responsible for proposing the deals with talent, Fox does the dirty work, carrying out the negotiations and, ultimately, footing the bill for the cast's skyrocketing salaries.

"We've heard from Fox, who has asked us for approval for Simon Cowell to appear for three more years on Idol," Robert Sillerman, CEO of 19's parent company, CKX, tells the Reporter.

"They, in their negotiations with Cowell, have asked us to preapprove him not only for American Idol '09, which has begun taping, but...for '10 and '11, indicating to us that they're finishing their negotiation with Cowell. We did grant approval for that quite obviously."

Abdul demanded a raise that would put her paycheck above host Ryan Seacrest, who just reupped for $15 million annually for three years. Producers balked and she walked.

Still, she's not exactly at home home weeping into a handful of HSN jewelry.

Yesterday, the much in-demand personality tweeted that she's got places to go and deals to negotiate.

"I've got a busy week filled with meetings. I'm looking forward to all the new projects up ahead."

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Simon may make the show, but nobody can replace Paula. Check out our rundown of her Top 9 Best Video Moments.

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