Simon Cowell is perhaps the world's most famous talent scout. He's had a hand in the careers of superstars like American Idol Carrie Underwood, Britain's X Factor breakout Leona Lewis and Britain's Got Talent megastar Susan Boyle. Simon's been sitting at the American Idol judges table since the very first show and has been credited largely with the series' runaway success. But now, after nine seasons, Simon is leaving Idol to produce and judge the U.S. version of The X Factor. "Two years ago, I remember sitting in the auditions one day and I thought, 'I think this is about as far as we can go,'" he says. "I've always promised myself that I'd leave before I was forced to go."
Simon's departure comes on the heels of a ratings dip for Idol—a decline of 8 percent—which Simon believes was due to a combination of factors, including former judge Paula Abdul's departure . "We had a great team. The show's a different show," he says. "She's a survivor, Paula. She's got great instincts, so for whatever reason she decided not to go back, she'll come back on top. I'm absolutely convinced of that."