Template:Infobox musical artist 2Simon Philip Cowell (born October 7, 1959 in Barnet, London) is a British artist and repertoire ("A&R") executive for BMG, but is best known as a judge on the television programs Pop Idol, American Idol, and The X Factor, where he is notorious for his unsparingly harsh and occasionally controversial criticism of the contestants on these shows.
Cowell was born on October 7, 1959 in Barnet, London to Eric and Julie Cowell. He has three half-brothers (John, Michael and Tony) and a half-sister (June), as well as sister Lindsay Elizabeth and younger brother Nicholas.
Cowell dropped out of secondary school at the age of 16 and started out in 1975 as a mail room clerk for EMI Music Publishing, where his father was an executive. He eventually worked his way up to record producer, but left during the 1980s and started his own label, Fanfare Records.
He found initial success, notably with singer (and girlfriend) Sinitta Malone. Soon, however, his financial investments began to fail and he returned home to live with his parents. An interview with Extra later revealed that he owed a bank about $1 million. During this time, he met Pete Waterman, a former DJ-turned-producer and founder of the then-aspiring Stock Aitken Waterman trio, who helped him regain success during the second half of the 1980s. Simon would later describe in interviews that he learned more from Pete Waterman in a short time than an entire career with a major label.
In 1989, he became an A&R consultant for BMG at the relatively young age of 29. During this time he signed a number of acts that made a mark in the pop music world, including Curiosity Killed the Cat, Sonia, 5ive, record-setting UK chart-toppers Westlife, and surprise actors-turned-singers Robson & Jerome. He also recorded the wrestlers of the WWF (Now WWE) with much success. Cowell subsequently set up his own label again, S Records.
Cowell became a judge on the first season of Pop Idol in 2001, and did the same for American Idol in 2002. His acerbic style of judging was a major reason for these shows becoming popular. This was especially so for American Idol, where in its first season talk about "that nasty guy Simon" gained the show media attention, more so than the hosts or contestants. Cowell's fame (or infamy) grew, fed by his deliberately insincere signature phrase, "I don't mean to be rude, but …". Cowell also appeared on the one-off World Idol program in 2003, where it became clear that each country's version of the Idol franchise had attempted to come up with its own "Simon". Further proving his effectiveness as a villain, in 2003 Cowell placed No. 33 on Channel 4's list of the all-time 100 Worst Britons.
Cowell's S Records signed the top two finishers of the first season of Pop Idol, Will Young and Gareth Gates, both of whom went on to have No. 1 UK hits. In June 2003, Cowell sold his half-share in S Records for US$42 million to BMG, thus becoming a multi-millionaire.
Cowell has not always been successful in his business ventures however. He produced the dating-based reality show Cupid in 2003 in the US, but it garnered negative reviews and failed to gain an audience.
In December 2003, Cowell published a book, I Don't Mean to Be Rude, But …. In it, he recounted his childhood, his years working in the music industry, his experiences on Pop Idol and American Idol, and finally, his tips for being successful as a pop star.
Efforts begun in 2001 materialised in 2004, when Cowell returned to his group manufacturing roots with his latest brainchild, the internationally successful operatic pop group Il Divo, composed of four young opera singers of four different nationalities.
In 2004, Cowell created (under his production company Syco), and was a judge on the then new British TV talent show The X Factor, with Sharon Osbourne and Louis Walsh. The X Factor was a success with viewers and has returned for a second series in 2005.
However, Cowell was sued by Pop Idol co-creator Simon Fuller in 2005 over The X Factor, saying it was too much a copy of Pop Idol, but after a while they settled out of court. The lawsuit threatened to block Cowell from appearing for the fifth season of American Idol, as Cowell's old contract had expired and he was negotiating a new contract at the time. Upon the settlement, Cowell signed a new five-season American Idol agreement with Fox Broadcasting Company.
On March 16, 2006, Simon Cowell's next competition show, American Inventor, debuted on ABC. Fledgling entrepreneurs from across America will compete to see who can come up with the best new product concept. The winner will receive $1 million and the opportunity to develop the idea into a business.
Besides judging unknowns, occasionally Cowell comments on already-established pop icons, for example opining in Esquire magazine that Beyoncé Knowles was overrated, or on the more positive side, saying that Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" was one of the best pop records ever made. 
After he was Punk'd by Ryan Seacrest and Randy Jackson on the season 5 premiere, he became the seventh non-American/non-Canadian to get "Punk'd". He also appeared as a guest voice in an episode of The Simpsons ("Smart and Smarter"), in which he gets beaten up, and made a cameo appearance as himself in Scary Movie 3, where he sits in judgment during a rap battle (and subsequently gets killed by gunfire for criticizing the rappers). He also appears in Shrek 2 as a judge in Far, Far Away Idol.
He also appeared on an episode of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?.
Cowell was once the fastest "Star in a Reasonably Priced Car" on BBC's motoring show Top Gear, driving a Suzuki Liana around the show's test track in a time of 1:47.1. He is now the third-fastest in the feature's rankings.