The show's brutally honest judge announced Monday he's leaving the Fox hit, confirming long-suspected rumors this would be his last season on the reality program.
Cowell is departing "American Idol" to focus on British hit "The X Factor," Cowell and top Fox executives announced Monday at a meeting of the Television Critics Association. Cowell will star on the American version of "The X Factor," which will join Fox's lineup next year, the Associated Press reported Fox execs said.
"I was offered a lot of money to stay on," Cowell said at the meeting. "But that wasn't the reason behind it. I wanted to do something different. I wanted a new challenge," Cowell said.
Cowell will leave the show in May 2010 at the end of the show's ninth season, which premieres Tuesday on Fox.
The British producer is the second judge to exit "American Idol" in the past year, following musician and choreographer Paula Abdul's exit last fall. Comedian Ellen DeGeneres replaced Abdul on the judging panel this season, joining Cowell, original "Idol" judge Randy Jackson and songwriter Kara dioGuardi.
DeGeneres said during a taping of her show Monday that she was "very, very sad" to see Cowell go.
Fox execs will "take their time" on choosing a replacement to fill Cowell's seat, Fox Broadcasting Co. chairman Peter Price said Monday.
The straight-talking Cowell, who's known for his nasty on-air demeanor, is viewed as the star of the Fox program, which has consistently topped the ratings in each of its past eight seasons. The ninth season, which will premiere Tuesday on Fox, is expected to draw big numbers for the network.
Cowell reportedly makes some $36 million a year to star on "Idol" and owns the rights to "The X Factor."