Why would [artist id="1397"]Paula Abdul[/artist] leave the top-rated show in television, one that gave her a sustained, worldwide fanbase she hasn't had since the days when she sold nearly 50 million albums two decades ago?
Was it the constant needling from fellow "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell? The parade of jokes and online spoofs of her on-air loopiness? No, according to The New York Times, in light of host Ryan Seacrest's recent $45 million deal, Abdul has been lobbying for a major pay bump in contract negotiations that have been going on since the spring.
Those negotiations appear to have fallen apart Tuesday, when Abdul took to her Twitter account to announce that she was leaving the show after eight seasons. It also came just a day after producers were effusive in their praise when announcing that songwriter Kara DioGuardi would be returning for a second season.
The Times reported that Abdul made around $2 million last season and was seeking a big raise, ultimately rejecting a 30 percent salary increase and multiyear deal worth more than $10 million. According to TMZ, the show's producers made an initial offer that Abdul didn't like, then they rejected a counter-offer from the judge and made yet another offer to her. But, rather than responding, Abdul reportedly shocked everyone involved by tweeting her goodbye to the show on Tuesday night. The New York Daily News pegged her asking price at $12 million per season.
The singer/choreographer's new manager, David Sonenberg, warned last month that Abdul might not return to the show, and unnamed sources close to the former judge told the Times that she had said in recent months that she felt under-appreciated by the show's producers. A spokesperson for the show declined to comment beyond a statement released by Fox confirming Abdul's departure.
Many in the industry saw Sonenberg's recent statements as a negotiating tactic, one that appears to have backfired; Sonenberg could not be reached for comment Wednesday (August 5).
Cowell, DioGuardi, Seacrest and Randy Jackson will be in Denver for season-nine auditions later this week, marking the first time Abdul will not be by their side since the show launched in 2002. While Seacrest went on the record on his radio show on Wednesday to say that he doesn't think Abdul's departure is a publicity stunt and that he's stunned, representatives for Cowell and Jackson could not be reached for comments from her former colleagues at press time.
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