Accuses companies of breach of contract over 'X Factor'

Adding a new chapter to the litigation history of “The X Factor,” Simon Fuller has filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Fox and FremantleMedia North America, seeking exec producer pay and credit for the network’s heavily promoted reality skein.

The complaint cites breach of contract and good faith with regard to a 2005 promise that Fox and Fremantle would give Fuller exec producer status on “X Factor,” created by “Idol” judge Simon Cowell. (Fuller created the “Idol” format and helped launch Fox smash “American Idol” in the U.S. a decade ago.)

This promise is said to have warded off a 2004 lawsuit from Fuller against Cowell in the U.K. over similarities between “Idol” and “X Factor.” “X Factor” launched in Blighty in 2004 and premieres on Fox in the U.S. on Sept. 21.

“As often happens in Hollywood,” the suit reads, “binding promises made one day for expediency turn out to be cast aside when it comes time to perform. This is just such a case.

“Defendants’ refusal to honor their promises made to Fuller is particularly malicious given that but for Fuller’s agreement, the ‘X Factor’ show would not be able to broadcast in the United States at all.”

Fuller is seeking an exec producer’s fee but not additional equity in the show. The lawsuit notes that Fuller “was given a minority interest in the ‘X Factor’ show as part of the (2005) settlement.”

“Mr. Fuller has not been hired, nor performed any duties, on the U.S. version of ‘The X Factor,'” Fox and Fremantle responded in a joint statement. “His suit seeks payment and credit as an executive producer despite his neither having been approved by the required parties, nor hired, as such. We believe this lawsuit is without merit and we expect to prevail.”

Fuller’s filing cites two November 2005 documents in which Fox specifically promised the executive producer credit and fee. Fuller settled his original suit against Cowell and his production company on Nov. 28, 2005, with the added provisos that “X Factor” would not premiere in the U.S. until 2011 and that Cowell would remain an “American Idol” judge through at least 2010.

“Fox’s position that Fuller’s claim lacks merit because the parties have not ‘approved’ him as executive producer is absurd,” said Fuller’s attorney, Dale Kinsella. “Fox is contractually obligated to approve Fuller as executive producer and compensate him accordingly, and it is because of the breach of the 2005 binding agreement that the case was filed. Fox appears to be admitting openly that they have failed to honor the contract terms.”

The omission of Fremantle from Kinsella’s statement led to some speculation that Fox and Fremantle were of different culpability in the matter: i.e., Fox had signed off on the deal but Fremantle hadn’t. But a spokesperson for Fuller’s camp said that wasn’t the case.

It’s worth noting that neither the party that was Fuller’s original target, Cowell, nor Cowell’s Syco shingle are named in this new lawsuit. Rather, from Fuller’s perspective, by brokering the peace between Fuller and Cowell in 2005, Fox and Fremantle essentially assumed responsibility for seeing that peace through. Conversely, the Fox-Fremantle argument ostensibly denies that responsibility.

The complaint states that Fuller is seeking “monetary damages in an amount to be proven at trial.” Sources indicate that the parties have had multiple conversations on the dispute prior to Fuller’s filing but were unable to see eye-to-eye.

“X Factor” is a major component of the Fox fall schedule alongside scripted blockbuster “Terra Nova,” and is expected to eventually carry the network’s talent-show banner over the long haul as “American Idol” ages.

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