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Simon Cowell leaving 'American Idol' after this season

Simon Cowell is leaving “American Idol” — but he’s not going anywhere.

The person many viewers say is the reason they tune into TV’s No. 1-rated show — the X-factor, as it were — will help launch another show he produces, “The X Factor,” in the United States beginning in the fall of 2011. He will be a judge on the show as well as executive producer.

"And because of that, this will be my last season on American Idol this year," said Cowell, who said he would be unable to handle the load of appearing on four TV shows. "I can barely get away with doing 'American Idol.' "

A handshake deal was reached about one hour before Cowell appeared before TV critics at their annual winter gathering in Pasadena, Calif. Then, as a ballroom of the media looked on, Cowell signed his contract on stage (or at least, a piece of paper purporting to be a contract).

“The X Factor,” which Britain’s ITV designed as a replacement for “Pop Idol” — the show that spawned “American Idol” — is a talent competition that finds new stars in a variety of entertainment fields, not just music.

It has no age limit and groups are allowed to apply — for the most recent cycle in Great Britain, a quarter-million people applied, said Cowell.

Another wrinkle on “Idol” is that the “X Factor” judges are also responsible for mentoring the talent.

“The judge is judged as well as the singer,” said Peter Rice, the chairman of Fox’s entertainment division in the U.S.

Cowell said the elimination of an age ceiling appealed to him.

“Susan Boyle is the best example of why I love doing ‘Britain’s Got Talent,’ ” he said.

Cowell already does “Britain’s Got Talent” and “X Factor.” The prospect of doing two shows in the U.S., he said, was too daunting.

“I want to leave ‘Idol’ bigger and better than it was before,” said Cowell.

The show, though, will be missing one of its original judges, Paula Abdul. Ellen DeGeneres is stepping in to join the panel.

And in 2011, it will be missing two original judges.

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