Few would dispute that Simon Fuller possessed the Midas touch when it came to discovering the next big thing. With an eye for emerging talent and an unmatched marketing genius, Fuller propelled numerous pop artists, television personalities, athletes, and fashion designers all the way to the top. He was the man behind the global phenomenon of the Spice Girls, one of the most famous all-female acts in music history. The media mogul's company, 19 Entertainment Ltd., guided the careers of some of music's biggest names such as Annie Lennox, Kelly Clarkson and Amy Winehouse, among others. Fuller struck gold when he created some of television's most memorable reality competition series, notably Britain's "Pop Idol" (iTV, 2001-03, 2006) and its U.S. spin-off, "American Idol" (Fox, 2002-16). With his handprint etched on so many people's careers and his ideas brought to reality in beloved television shows, there was no denying the far-reaching impact and influence Fuller had on international pop culture.
Simon Fuller was born on May 17, 1960 in Hastings, East Sussex, England. He was a well-traveled child, thanks to his father, a pilot-turned-teacher who frequently traveled overseas with his family to help build schools. Fuller had a sibling who was also in the music business, Kim Fuller, a television writer, executive producer, and director. The future media mogul's business acumen emerged when he was still a student looking for local bands to play at his college in southern England. His first job was at Britain's Chrysalis Music, where he quickly climbed the ranks to talent scout. His knack for spotting major artists became pretty evident when, at age 21, he bought the rights to Madonna's first hit single, "Holiday."
After three years at Chrysalis, Fuller set out on his own. He scored big when he discovered Paul Hardcastle, a British composer and musician who churned out several hit songs in the mid-1980s. With Fuller as his manager, Hardcastle's Vietnam War song "19" topped the charts. With more experience and confidence under his belt, Fuller launched 19 Entertainment in 1985, naming his company after the hit single. Since its inception, the London-based 19 Entertainment Ltd. was behind some of the biggest names in music, sports and fashion. In 2005, Fuller sold 19 Entertainment to American billionaire Robert Sillerman's Sports Entertainment Enterprises for $188 million. Sillerman's company was renamed CKX, Inc., where Fuller also served as director.
Fuller had clearly found his calling - discovering unknown talent and transforming them into global sensations. In the early 1990s, he launched the career of Cathy Dennis, the British pop artist who was the voice behind some of the biggest songs of the decade including "Too Many Walls," "Just another Dream," and "Touch Me (All Night Long"). Fuller managed Dennis' career for many years, as well as other chart-toppers, including "American Idol" stars Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry, and David Cook; and Annie Lennox, who Fuller managed since the release of her multiplatinum album, Diva in 1991. In 2002, he discovered a then 19-year-old Amy Winehouse and produced her first award-winning jazz-tinged album, Frank in 2003. The Grammy Awards winner's 2006 album Back to Black was an international hit. Fuller, a lifelong sports fan, also directed the careers of famed athletes like world tennis champion Andy Murray and soccer's most famous player, David Beckham. Fuller and Beckham went on to have a long-lasting relationship, not only as client and manager, but also as friends and business partners. In fact, it was Fuller who introduced Beckham to his wife Victoria Adams, a.k.a. "Posh Spice" of the Spice Girls. In addition, Fuller was one of the driving forces behind Beckham's $250 million dollar move to the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team in 2007.
But it was managing a British all-female musical act that became one of Fuller's major coups. That group was the Spice Girls, five women who became international superstars due to an irresistible mix of catchy pop tunes, colorful personalities, and for introducing the phrase "Zig-a-Zig-ah" into the English language. Their stage names were perfect matches of their glitzy onscreen personas - "Baby" was the sweet one (Emma Bunton), "Ginger" was the flame-haired seductress (Geri Halliwell), "Scary" was sassy and assertive (Melanie Brown), "Sporty" was the athlete (Melanie Chisholm), and "Posh" was always impeccably dressed in tight dresses with matching killer heels (Victoria Beckham). After signing them on to music publishers Windswept Pacific in 1995, Fuller took them to the United States for a massive promotional tour. He also created the group's catch phrase "Girl Power," which made the Spice Girls' appeal more attractive to tween girls that began looking up to them as role models. After giving the group a solid brand image and its trademark bubblegum pop, Fuller took the Spice Girls from obscurity all the way to the top of the charts with their first hit single "Wannabe" in 1996. The single became a No. 1 hit, not only in the UK, but also in some 36 countries.
Fuller also changed the reality competition landscape in a big way, masterminding influential TV shows such as Britain's "Pop Idol," a talent competition where viewers called in to vote and determine the next pop UK superstar. The success of "Pop Idol" launched numerous international spin-offs, most notably the larger-than-life "American Idol," which became one of the network's most-watched shows and jumpstarted the careers of Clarkson, Underwood, Daughtry, and Cook, among others. The show also reignited the ailing career of Paula Abdul, a chart-topper herself in the 1990s, and made stars out of Ryan Seacrest, Randy Jackson, and fellow British import Simon Cowell. Cowell also judged "Pop Idol" from 2001 to 2003. Under Fuller's helm, "American Idol" skyrocketed to the top of the ratings and won numerous television awards during its run. He also helped make the "Idol" franchise one of the most lucrative television ventures worldwide, generating more than $1 billion in advertising, music, and merchandising sales since 2001.
Fuller also created "So You Think You Can Dance" (Fox, 2005- ), another top-rated reality competition show that searched for America's next big dance star. It brought to the forefront dancers from different genres, including salsa, hip-hop, jazz, ballet, ballroom and street dancing. Thanks to Fuller's winning formula of placing an unknown talent's success or failure in the hands of the show's viewers and its unwavering judges, the dance competition scored big ratings as well numerous television awards.
The forward-thinking entrepreneur next delved deep into the fashion world, launching the Web site Fashionair.com in the fall of 2009. The site was a joint venture between Fuller and Net-a-Porter alum, Sojin Lee. Prior to launching the site, Fuller had collaborated on fashion ventures with the Beckhams, launching their designer label "DVB," and with LA Galaxy designer Roland Mouret, whom Fuller also managed. 19 Entertainment also bought a 51 percent stake in supermodel Kate Moss' modeling agency Storm Models in 2009. Creating Fashionair.com, a glossy site that converged all areas of fashion from expert shopping advice to insider profiles, proved that Fuller's lasting influence went far beyond music, television and sports.
Producer (Feature Film)
Launched career as talent scout at Chrysalis and A&R
Bought rights to Madonna¿s first hit single "Holiday"
Launched 19 Entertainment, named after Paul Hardcastle's hit single "19"
Began managing British music icon Annie Lennox
Managed successful pop group Spice Girls
Spice Girls released breakthrough debut album Spice
Executive produced musical comedy feature "Spice World"
Created British talent competition series "Pop Idol" (ITV)
Created hit competition series "American Idol" (Fox)
Discovered Amy Winehouse and produced her first award-winning album Frank
Along with co-creator Nigel Lythgoe, launched "So You Think You Can Dance" (Fox)
Co-created spin-off sketch comedy series "Little Britain USA" (HBO)
Launched retail web site Fashionair.com
Received star on Hollywood Walk of Fame
Executive produced period drama "Bel Ami," starring Robert Pattinson