People often confuse entertainment manager Simon Fuller with the vicious British judge on the U.S. talent show American Idol. That's actually Simon Cowell. But while Cowell merely appears on the TV program, fellow Brit Fuller is the brains behind the 21-country franchise, which has generated more than $1 billion in advertising, music, and merchandising sales since 2001. Fuller declines interviews, preferring to promote stars like American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson. But at 44, the pop mogul, who divides his time among houses in London, Los Angeles, and the south of France, is one of Europe's top entertainment impresarios.
Fuller got involved in the music business as a student, when he sought out local bands to play gigs at his college in southern England. His first job was as a talent scout for Britain's Chrysalis Music, where, at 21, he bought rights to the song Holiday, Madonna's first hit single. Three years later, Fuller set out on his own and struck gold once again with the British pop song 19 by Paul Hardcastle, a massive hit. Fuller's London-based company, 19 Entertainment Ltd., has been behind some of the world's biggest names in music, sports, and fashion, including the Spice Girls (who split up six months after firing Fuller as their manager), Annie Lennox, David and Victoria Beckham (she used to be Posh Spice), and the American Idol winners. In March, 2003, Fuller became the first manager to have his artists hold the top three positions in the U.S. singles chart and the No. 1 slot album, beating the record set by Beatles manager Brian Epstein in the 1960s.
Fuller's success was recently rewarded by U.S. billionaire Robert Sillerman, who in March bought 19 Entertainment for $188 million. Fuller has since been named director of CKX Inc. (CKXE ), the new name of Sillerman's Sports Entertainment Enterprises. He is also at work on an Internet portal called I Love Music, where songs will be available for downloading onto wireless devices. Considering that sales of ringtones alone rang in at $5.8 billion last year, Fuller could well have another hit on his hands.
By Rachel Tiplady