She helped scout for talent across the country, nurtured rising singers and became an icon on one of TV’s most popular shows. But after eight seasons and back and forth negotiations, Paula Abdul shocked fans — and her bosses — when she announced she was leaving American Idol.
So what exactly went wrong?
Speculation about Abdul’s future with the show grew rampant after manager David Sonenberg told the Los Angeles Times in July that FremantleMedia and 19 Entertainment, the production companies behind Idol, had not given her a new contract three weeks before the ninth season was to start filming — and just days after Idol host Ryan Seacrest reportedly signed a three-year deal for $45 million.
“She’s worked really hard for them and it’s time for them to reciprocate,” a source said at the time. “They need to come through or she’ll walk.”
The warning signs may have been there: Sonenberg spoke out against producers, calling them “rude and disrespectful” to Abdul for not having “stepped up,” but the judge not only felt under appreciated, she also believed she was underpaid.
“When everyone else [was] getting such big raises she was hurt,” a source close to the former Idol judge revealed. “She did want to go back to the show, of course. She’s upset they didn’t give her what she deserved.”
According to a source close to the show: “FOX offered Abdul a raise, but it was much less than what she was asking for.” She asked for about $20 million, according to The Hollywood Reporter, and rejected a 30 percent raise — an eight-figure, multi-year deal.
Abdul’s announcement on her Twitter page — less than a week after FOX announced Kara DioGuardi was returning to the judges’ table — blindsided producers and “took everyone by surprise,” adds the show source. But leaving Idol isn’t a complete loss for her professional career — there’s a chance she could move to another network.
“Paula is an exceptional piece of talent,” Paul Telegdy, NBC’s alternative programming executive, told reporters Wednesday at the Television Critics’ Association panel in Pasadena, Calif. “We have no specific plans for her but I read the breaking news [of her departure from Idol] and I wouldn’t rule anything out.”
As for her state of mind at the moment, “She’s a little bit of everything right now — a little scared about the future,” says the source close to Abdul. “The deal isn’t there. She was really surprised that Idol didn’t come through.”