A report from the New York Times confirm what everyone has been speculating. Paula Abdul did leave American Idol due to money matters, but also because she felt disrespected by the show’s producers. It turns out that the reason why she wanted higher compensation was to make up for the endorsement deals she lost when rumors circulated about her using substances before and during the live show. Though Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson tried to counter the rumors, she still felt that the show helped perpetuate them.
A person close to Ms. Abdul said that part of her salary demands were to make up for the loss of income from at least one endorsement deal that went awry. That person said that Ms. Abdul had been negotiating for that endorsement contract, with a major fashion label, in 2006 and was close to a deal.
But the deal fell apart, Ms. Abdul’s supporter said, after questions were raised about whether she had been drinking or using drugs before “Idol” promotional appearances or even during the live show, behavior she strongly denied. Ms. Abdul told David Letterman on his talk show in July 2007 that she believed remarks by the other judges on “Idol” had inadvertently fed the rumors. Earlier that year the judges, Mr. Cowell and Randy Jackson, had countered those rumors.
It turns out that Paula wasn’t the easiest person to work with, and that people working for Fox also had mixed feelings about Paula.
One member of the “Idol” team, meanwhile, said that while Ms. Abdul had clearly contributed to the program’s success, the costs and benefits of her histrionics were quantifiable enough that “Idol” could afford to draw a line in the sand and not cross it.
It seems like hiring an aggressive manager, David Sonenberg, was also the wrong way to go about things.
People involved in the negotiations also said that Ms. Abdul’s contract talks were hurt when she changed managers at the end of June. Soon after the change Mr. Sonenberg, the new manager, told The Los Angeles Times that it appeared that Ms. Abdul would leave the show because she had not received a viable contract offer.
Fox executives said that they had communicated to Mr. Sonenberg the same offer that they had made to Ms. Abdul during the season. But they were vexed, they said, by the new manager’s aggressive remarks and his attempt to negotiate publicly. “It didn’t go over well at all here,” one Fox executive said.
Fox did offer Paula Abdul $5 million in the spring but they never wavered, which must have understandably pissed her off considering that Simon Cowell makes over $30 million from the Idol gig and will be receiving an even bigger raise.
And finally, Paula was indeed threatened by Kara DioGuardi’s appearance as a fourth judge and got the message that she was indeed expendable.
Ms. Abdul has stated publicly that the two women developed a good working relationship, but people close to her say she was surprised and dismayed at the hiring, believing that it was intended to send a message that she was replaceable.
There are rumors circulating wildly about last-minute deals being made to make Paula stay, but it’s unlikely that Fox will change their mind about Paula’s expendability. As much as I love Paula, I have to admit that the show will go on even without her. In fact, it would be refreshing to see a new face in her place. I can’t wait to see how well Katy Perry and Victoria Beckham did on their guest judge stint, and to find out who the new judge will be.