Simon Cowell, Sony Music sign deal

Partners to co-own new entertainment venture

LONDON — Simon Cowell and Sony Music Entertainment are setting up a joint venture to produce and distribute music, TV, film and digital content.

The pact, announced Tuesday, ends the uncertainty over Cowell’s relationship with Sony, with the conglom swapping its 100% ownership of Cowell’s Syco shingle for a 50% stake in the new venture.

A Cowell-owned company will own the remaining 50%. Business maven Philip Green, Cowell’s close friend and adviser, is believed to be one of the investors.

It has previously been reported that Cowell and Green, a Brit billionaire with interests in fashion and retail, intend to launch an entertainment business together. The Sony-Syco deal appears to keep Green in the background of the new venture.

The new company will operate under the Syco banner, which owns the rights to skeins “The X Factor” and “Got Talent” as well as artists including Leona Lewis and Susan Boyle.

Cowell recently announced he was leaving Fox’s “American Idol” at the end of this season (Daily Variety, Jan. 11) to present and exec produce an American version of “The X Factor.” The new show will bow on Fox in 2011.

Cowell’s new venture also comes on the heels of the news that Simon Fuller, creator of “American Idol” and founder of 19 Entertainment, has signed a new deal with media and rights firm CKX, which owns the rights to “American Idol,” to continue as exec producer while also launching his own new entertainment company, XIX (Daily Variety, Jan. 12).

Fuller’s first major project through XIX will be Robert Pattinson starrer “Bel Ami,” set to go into production this year; he will exec produce. Move marks Fuller’s entry into the film biz.