"American Idol" creator Simon Fuller sued Fox Broadcasting Company and Fremantle on Wednesday for an executive producer credit and fees for the upcoming Fox show "X Factor."
The lawsuit creates an exceedingly awkward situation both for Fox, which airs "Idol" and will debut "X Factor" in September, and Fremantle, which produces both shows.
Fox said in a statement that the suit was "without merit."
The suit springs from a 2005 attempt by Fox and Fremantle to make peace between the two Simons, both key to "Idol" becoming the most successful show on American TV. Fuller's format has had more than 100 variations worldwide.
His original British show, "Pop Idol," spawned "American Idol" in 2002. When Cowell, the most outspoken of the three "Idol" judges, introduced the British "X Factor" in 2004, Fuller filed a suit accusing Cowell of ripping off his format.
Fuller said Fox and Fremantle made a deal with him in 2005 in which he agreed to drop the suit in exchange for an executive producer credit and fee on the American version of "X Factor." The deal also included a confidental settlement, an agreement that Cowell would remain with "Idol" through 2010, and Fuller receiving a minority interest in "X Factor."
But with the show just two months from airing, Fuller says, Fox and Fremantle have refused to grant him the executive producer credit or pay him a fee "'commensurate with his duties and stature in the entertainment industry."
Fox said in a statement: "Mr. 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."
A representative for Fuller said in a statement that Fuller "has prudently attempted to settle this matter privately but the other parties have refused to honor the original contract, leaving him no other choice but to pursue legal action."
Fuller's suit alludes to the recent phone hacking scandal at News Corp., Fox's parent company, to suggest a culture of wrongdoing.
"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 suit reads.