Well, it's probably safe to say it's not about the money—mostly because these two are too stinking rich for words.
But that didn't stop American Idol cocreator, superstar producer and manager and apparent grudge holder extraordinaire Simon Fuller from launching the mother of all lawsuits against Simon Cowell's new TV baby, The X Factor, today.
At issue—on the surface, anyway—is who deserves credit for the yet-to-premiere reality show. But really, it's about so much more than that. Nothing like a well-backed rivalry, right, folks?
Here's the deal. While Cowell isn't actually listed as a defendant in the breach of contract, breach of good faith and fair dealing lawsuit filed this morning, pretty much everyone else around him is, as both Fox and Fremantle Media, the company behind both Idol and X Factor, were named.
At stake is whether or not the inordinately well-connected Fuller will receive an executive producer credit, the requisite fee, and, of course, a cut of the no doubt astronomical profits the show will reap once it premieres this fall.
As it stands now, Fuller is getting none of those things. And he's come to collect from the allegedly reneging bunch.
"Fox and Fremantle made hundreds of millions of dollars thanks to the creative efforts of Fuller," the lawsuit, filed today in Los Angeles Superior Court and obtained by the Hollywood Reporter, states.
"Now, when it is time to finally perform on these unequivocal promises, Fox and Fremantle refuse to provide Fuller his executive producer credit…and refuse to pay Fuller an executive producer fee 'commensurate with his duties and stature in the entertainment industry.'"
The butting of heads isn't without precedence, and in fact stems from a $170 million lawsuit Fuller brought against Cowell back in 2004, over what he pretty understandably saw as "striking similarities" between the formats of Idol and X Factor (at the time, Cowell had already launched the U.K. version of the latter reality competition).
The following year, a deal was brokered between the two rivals and business partners after Fox stepped in to stop its talent in-fighting, and, per Fuller's suit, stipulated in their agreement that Fuller would drop his suit in exchange for an executive producer credit and fee once Cowell brought the show stateside.
Which he was only able to do thanks to the deal.
"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 broadcast in the United States at all," the suit stated.
"As often happens in Hollywood, however, binding promises made one day for expediency turn out to be cast aside when it comes time to perform."
Fuller also took the opportunity to take a swipe at Fox's already-down parent company, News Corp., in his suit.
"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."
The network didn't waste much time in responding to the suit, telling E! News that 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."
As for Cowell, well, he's staying out of this fight. Wisely.