Ending Weeks of speculation, Paula Abdul took to her Twitter page on the night of Aug. 4 to deliver shocking news to her fans: She would be leaving American Idol after eight seasons. In a series of five posts, she wrote:
· With sadness in my heart, I’ve decided not to return to IDOL. I’ll miss nurturing all the new talent, but most of all…
· …being a part of a show that I helped from day 1 become an international phenomenon.
· What I want to say most, is how much I appreciate the undying support and enormous love that you have showered upon me.
· It truly has been breathtaking, especially over the past month.
· I do without any doubt have the BEST fans in the entire world and I love you all.
An hour later, Fox, FremantleMedia North America, and 19 Entertainment confirmed the singer’s departure: ”Paula Abdul has been an important part of the American Idol family over the last eight seasons and we are saddened that she has decided not to return to the show. While Paula will not be continuing with us, she’s a tremendous talent and we wish her the best.”
It was a fittingly public end to a contract negotiation that played out loudly in the media this summer. The buzz began building last month, when Abdul’s manager, David Sonenberg, made it clear that negotiations were breaking down. (He told the Los Angeles Times that the show’s treatment of Abdul was ”unconscionable and certainly rude.”) Even Simon Cowell had her back, telling Extra, ”I’ve…made it clear that I want Paula on the show.” In the end, a source close to the negotiations says 19 offered Abdul a 30 percent pay bump — an eight-figure deal. And she still walked away.
The reaction so far? Mostly disbelief. Reps for her fellow judges declined to comment, but host Ryan Seacrest sounded off on Twitter: ”I am shocked and saddened.”
Season 1 contestant Jim Verraros agrees, telling EW, ”The producers are making the biggest mistake.” Adds season 7’s Brooke White, ”That nurturing spirit of hers is going to be missed. I feel sad for [this year’s] contestants that she won’t be in their corner.”
Abdul’s next step remains unclear. Rumors have been floated that she might join the network’s So You Think You Can Dance as a guest judge, but that’s just talk. And even with Idol auditions starting up on Aug. 6, there are still some people at Fox who think the ever-unpredictable judge may come back to the bargaining table. After all, says one source close to the show: ”This is Paula Abdul.”
— Additional reporting by Lynette Rice, Michael Slezak, and Adam B. Vary