Known to millions as the surly British judge on American Idol, Simon Cowell started his career at EMI Music Publishing, where he worked his way up from the assistant to an A&R representative to a record producer, but in the early '80s, he left the company to create his own label, E&S Music. The company went bankrupt, and Cowell returned to EMI, but he tried to launch his own label again in 1985 with Fanfare Records, which enjoyed more success but was forced to fold when its parent company went under.
Frustrated by his second major setback, Cowell began working as an A&R consultant for BMG, where he found major success with the bright idea to produce novelty records by stars from other areas of the entertainment industry who were already popular, such as professional wrestlers and kid's TV personalities. The music man also signed a number of successful bands to the label, and began working on other music-based projects like the British show Pop Idol, which would be reincarnated in America as American Idol. Cowell also tried starting up his own music company once again, Sysco Records, this time with the brilliant angle of releasing all the music from American Idol and Pop Idol winners on it. The entertainment mogul also came up with a number of other competitive reality series like America's Got Talent, American Inventor, and The X Factor.