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'American Idol' may lose Paula Abdul

Her manager says it is 'rude and disrespectful' that the colorful judge is without a contract.

July 18, 2009|Richard Rushfield and Scott Collins

Paula Abdul is unhappy. And unless the producers of "American Idol" change her frown to a smile soon, she'll dance like there's no tomorrow away from TV's No. 1 show.

"Very sadly, it does not appear that she's going to be back on 'Idol,' " David Sonenberg, Abdul's manager, told The Times when contacted about the judge's contract negotiations.

With auditions for the ninth season due to start Aug. 6, Sonenberg says he doesn't even have a proposal for a new contract from FremantleMedia and 19 Entertainment, the production companies behind the show. The new season is scheduled to premiere in January.

"I find it under these circumstances particularly unusual; I think unnecessarily hurtful," he said of the contract holdup. "I find it kind of unconscionable and certainly rude and disrespectful that they haven't stepped up and said what they want to do."

Representatives for Fremantle, 19 and Fox all separately declined to comment.

When TV stars (or their reps) air contract-renewal gripes in the media, it's often a sign that negotiations are entering a more active phase. Abdul -- whose tearful, tongue-tied feedback to contestants have made her a kind of batty sister figure to star "Idol" judge Simon Cowell -- may have special reasons to want to push the ball forward now, given that "Idol" host Ryan Seacrest just signed a deal worth a reported $45 million that will keep him on the job for at least the next three years. That pact effectively doubled Seacrest's salary.

Meanwhile, Cowell has a contract that expires next year and is jockeying for his own rich new payday. Published reports have floated a mind-blowing figure of $144 million, which Cowell has scoffed at, saying that talks are ongoing. (Fellow judge Randy Jackson is booked through 2011.)

But the situation is more complicated for Abdul. Last season, the producers added a fourth judge, Kara DioGuardi. Producers have not announced a deal with DioGuardi either, but the speculation is that her presence at the judging table may have been a shrewd move to tamp down any outsize contract demands that Abdul and her team might make. For their parts, both DioGuardi and Abdul have said recently that they want to return to the show. (DioGuardi's publicist did not respond to a request for comment.)

But in Abdul's case, that seems dependent on getting the right dollar amount. Sonenberg has said his client has not been well-compensated in the past.

She's already looking toward an "Idol"-less future, he says, though Abdul's foray into non-"Idol" programming, the 2007 Bravo show "Hey Paula," was not a success.

"She's not a happy camper as a result of what's going on. She's hurt. She's angry," Sonenberg said. "I think at this point we're going to be considering everything, including some kind of a competition show. She has tremendous ideas for a whole variety of shows."

--

richard.rushfield

@latimes.com

scott.collins@latimes.com

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