Paula Abdul, L.A. Reid, Nicole Sherzinger and Simon Cowell (Ray Mickshaw/Fox)

“I’ve learned through my longevity in this industry that business decisions often times override personal considerations. Simon and I, along with Fox and Fremantle, have been communicating about this for a while now, and I have absolute understanding of the situation,” Abdul added.

“The situation” is that last fall, creator Simon Cowell delivered to the network only a successful show — not the 20 million-viewer ratings behemoth he’d bragged it would be.

This week, a humbled Cowell began changing the show in preparation for its second season after poring over the results of recent focus-group testing conducted by Fox and the production company Fremantle.

When the dust settled Tuesday afternoon, Cowell — who is also a judge/mentor on the show — and judge/mentor L.A. Reid were the only ones left standing. Abdul, judge/mentor Nicole Scherzinger and host Steve Jones had all been scrapped.

“I want to say a massive thank you to Paula, Nicole and Steve for being part of ‘The X Factor’ last year,” Cowell said Tuesday in a statement. “We had a lot of fun making the show together and importantly, we found some real talent and stars.”

The “X”-odus began Monday afternoon when Jones tweeted: “I wont be hosting next seasons X Factor which is a shame but I cant complain as Ive had a great time. Good luck to everyone on the show.”

Then a Scherzinger rep whispered something to the news media about her having decided to focus on her singing career instead of “The X Factor.”

Later Monday, Fox announced that Jones and Scherzinger were out — a surprise to no one because their exits had been the subject of speculation for more than a couple of months.

View Photo Gallery: “The X Factor” on FOX.

Paula’s departure, on the other hand, surprised many, given that Cowell made such a point of bringing her back by his side — as she’d been when both were judges on Fox’s other singing competition series, “American Idol.”

“You do develop friendships with the people you work with and Paula, in particular, is a very close friend,” Cowell acknowledged Tuesday in his official so long to the three.

“I expect to be working with her on another project in the near future. I’m sure all three are going to have massive success in what they do next, but now is the time to thank them all for everything they did last year,” he added.

According to an informed source, focus groups said that as mentors, a Pussycat Doll and a former Laker Girl simply did not stack up to Cowell and Reid.

Reid, the former chief executive of Island Def Jam Music Group, is maybe best known for signing Mariah Carey, Pink, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Kanye West and Usher, among others.

Focus-group participants said they did not want to be entertained by the show’s mentors. They want the mentors to actually give “X”-testants serious critiques and guidance — in an entertaining way.

And here, in Cowell’s own words, is how Scherzinger would critique “X”-testants during the show’s first season:

“I believe in you. You believe in me. You transcend the universe. God is smiling on you. Life is a waterfall, and you are the ultimate rainbow.”


Focus-group participants had little patience with the chick-mentors making it all about their own drama. Like when a distraught Abdul brought the live show to a standstill as she refused to eliminate either of her competing groups. (Eventually, she was persuaded to cast her vote and chose to send home the girl group Lakoda Rayne — only to get outvoted by the other three mentors, who cut Atlanta-based R&B fivesome Stereo Hogzz instead.)

“I was crying, as well — I’m an artist first, not a judge, and I know what it feels like, and it broke my heart,” Scherzinger insisted afterward, horning in on Abdul’s emotional turf. Not smart.

But the focus-group folks really wrote off Scherzinger, who’d been responsible for the the most shocking elimination in singing competition history.

That’s when 13-year-old sweetheart Rachel Crow — she of the Best Back Story Ever (adopted crack baby!) — got cut and collapsed onstage, bawling “Mommy!” after a nearly hysterical Scherzinger deliberately sent the judges into deadlock (at Abdul’s instruction) so Scherzinger would not have to cast the deciding vote, because it was just too hard!

“Okay, I can’t make this decision, because I’ve been up there, and love and adore both of you,” Nicole wailed at Rachel and Marcus Canty, once again making it all about her.

“We love Paula. She is a remarkable talent, and we appreciate all of her contributions,” Fox reality-TV chief Mike Darnell announced Tuesday. “We’re lucky that she is a part of the Fox family, and we look forward to working with her again soon.”

But, of course, this already was working with Abdul again. She’d bolted from the network’s “American Idol” a few years earlier because Fox declined to offer her Ryan Seacrest money to get her to stay.