Simon Fuller has sold the talent operation to Robert F.X. Sillerman for $161.3 million

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated March 21, 2005 08:00 AM

Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Johnson have a new judge.

Mega-billionaire Robert F.X. Sillerman has shelled out $161.3 million to buy 19 Entertainment, the British-based company that operates the more than 30 versions of American Idol around the globe, including the one running on FOX.

Speaking to The New York Times, Sillerman, who recently bought up the Elvis Presley songbook, revealed no specific new plans for the Idol franchise. But he did say that the goal of his CKX company is to build an arsenal of entertainment content that can fulfill the needs of such upcoming distribution technologies as on-demand TV and handheld devices.

“I can imagine years from now something being distributed through cellphones, BlackBerries, computers, whatever,” said Sillerman, who made his fortune in the radio and concert businesses, and sold his previous business to radio conglomerate Clear Channel for $4.4 billion.

UK music producer Simon Fuller, who has agreed to stay on and run the operation for Sillerman for at least six years, founded 19 Entertainment.

Fuller once managed the Spice Girls – and manages the Idol winners. According to New York’s Daily News, he also still has a joint venture with ex-Spice Girl Victoria Beckham and her husband, soccer superstar David Beckham.

“When it comes to vision, I can’t think of anyone who surpasses Simon Fuller,” Sillerman tells the Daily News.