Crib Sheet: Simon Fuller, Creator of “Idol,” Hulu Series “If I Can Dream”

Although Simon Fuller may not be a household name, his charges are.

Simon Fuller

Although Simon Fuller may not be a household name, his charges are. From sport (David Beckham and Andy Murray) to fashion, (Roland Mouret, FASHIONAIR, that skinny girl, married to the footballer, ooh, what’s her name?) music (Pick any of the TV breakthrough artists of this decade and chances are they’re part of the 19 stable) and TV, he’s one of the media’s canniest performers, and is probably the man behind the biggest watercooler moments of the past decade. And now If I Can Dream has launched on Hulu, a show Fuller has described as “the next frontier.” When it comes to popular culture, this apple-cheeked British smoothie will tell you what you want, what you really, really want, before you even know it. Here are the high points:

  • Born in 1960, Fuller’s first job was in music A&R. He signed up mild-mannered bedroom musician Paul Hardcastle, whose first single 19, went to the top of the charts in almost as many countries as there have been UN peacekeeping missions. On this success he founded his company 19.
  • There is no truth in the rumor that receptionists at the company’s L.A. offices are told to pick up the phone and say “N-n-n-n-Nineteen, nine-teen. Who’s speaking, please?”
  • With 180 employees in London, N.Y., L.A., Nashville, and Europe, 19 Entertainment earned its parent company, CKX Inc $92 million in 2008. Should If I Can Dream be a hit, 19 is sure to deliver him a whole lot more.
  • Although never proved, there is more than a grain of truth in the rumor that Fuller had a fling with Emma Bunton when he was managing the Spice Girls. Were the “girls” (average age: 37 or thereabouts) so ticked off with his casual dumping of Baby–no one puts her in a corner, they decided–that they sacked Fuller and took on management duties themselves? Probably not. The truth is probably more prosaic. Hacked off by the fact that they seemed to be doing all the bloody work themselves (strategy costs, ladies) with nary a day off, plus the fact that Fuller was probably getting more money than they were, they gave him the flick. Shortly after, it was the girls’ turn to be unceremoniously dumped–by the record-buying public.
  • He’s a great believer in cross-brand promotion with his stars. For example: When the Beckhams moved to the U.S., Victoria was snapped in fellow 19 client Roland Mouret’s Galaxy Dress. And the theme music of If I Can Dream is an Elvis song, CKx Inc. being responsible for the Presley estate.
  • News International’s Peter Chernin describes him as a master trend spotter. Here are the stats to prove it. By mid 2008, 500 Number One singles, 240-plus Number One albums worldwide. And 116 million records sold in the U.S. alone.
  • Born 1960 in the U.K. seaside town of Hastings, he lived in Ghana and Germany as a kid. Now resides in a 12-room mansion in Hollywood, but has homes in France, Sussex, London, New York, Nashville, and Uruguay.
  • Loves working with women, as he says they are “loyal and hard-working.”
  • Fuller made Time magazine’s Power 100 list in 2007. His entry was “written” by David Beckham, who described him as a four-letter word. That’s “nice.”
  • His success in the world of TV knows no bounds. What starts off as a prime-time show in the U.K. ends up as a global monstrosity. Idol and So You Think You Can Dance are both examples of the genre, and he spotted the comedic genius of David Walliams and Matt Lucas, bringing Little Britain to the U.S.
  • Despite a mammoth spat with fellow spiky-haired entertainment behemoth Simon Cowell (it was all to do with Cowell’s X-Factor, a spot-the-difference-with-Pop-Idol talent show which Fuller claimed his eponymous rival had copied.) A settlement was reached at the eleventh hour, denying fans the possibility of a sing-off, on which the general public could vote.
  • A petrolhead with a half-a-mil custom-built Maybach at his disposal, Fuller also owns a bunch of private jets. He offsets his carbon footprint, however, with an environment-promoting “Earth Car” for the Honda F1 team. He’s also the driving force behind some sterling charity work, most notably Idol Gives Back, which, in 2007, raised $70 million for American and African causes over two nights.
  • 19’s mission statement is the slightly cringe-inducing “Partnering talent, creating change, empowering dreams.” Let’s hope 19 doesn’t empower the dream I had last night, in which I married Meat Loaf and all my teeth fell out as we stood at the altar. Oh, and Larry David serenaded the new Mr. and Mrs. Loaf with a C&W version of “Ave Maria.”

About the author

My writing career has taken me all round the houses over the past decade and a half--from grumpy teens and hungover rock bands in the U.K., where I was born, via celebrity interviews, health, tech and fashion in Madrid and Paris, before returning to London, where I now live. For the past five years I've been writing about technology and innovation for U.S