American Idol could be one season away from jumping the shark as evidence continues to mount that the show's signature barb slinger is preparing to bail.
Cowell's own brother, Tony, is the latest harbinger of doom for Fox's singing contest, announcing in his podcast, The Cowell Factor, that his little sibling is as good as gone.
"A press statement is being prepared which will confirm what everybody expected: Simon will leave Idol at the end of 2010 to concentrate on bringing the American version of X Factor to U.S. TV in 2011," Tony says in this week's installment.
The X Factor is Simon Cowell's hit U.K. series that, like Idol, uses viewer votes to find new singing talent, most notably Leona Lewis. It even led to a legal battle between Cowell and Idol producer Simon Fuller that was eventually settled.
A week ago, the Times of London reported that Cowell has had conversations with Fox honchos about leaving Idol when his contract expires at the end of 2010, with an American X Factor set to debut in 2011 on Fox. (Like Fox, the Times is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.)
Cowell is pocketing a reported $45 million for the coming season, which kickd off Jan. 12. He has played hardball before in previous contract years, so there is some hope for Idol-holics that Fox might work out a time-sharing deal.
But for now, neither Cowell nor Fox is talking.
Enjoy Simon on Idol while you can. And in the meantime, check out the faces in our American Idol Guest Judge gallery—who knows, maybe one will be coming back permanently.