"I would've liked to have kept [Paula]," Cowell, 52, tells Extra. "She was very gracious, and I said that to her. She understands it's business; it's never personal."
Of Scherzinger, he added: "I don't think she's mad. I think she's disappointed."
Why the big changes? "It's only because I opened my big mouth and said we were going to get 20 million [viewers]," Cowell says. "If I hadn't said that, everybody would be saying the show was a huge success."
As it turns out, L.A. Reid was the only fellow judge who was indispensable. "There's not a record executive out there who is as good as him for the job," Cowell says.
Asked about potential new judges, Cowell called rumors that Beyoncé was being considered "complete nonsense." He said that Madonna would be "great" but "expensive," and that Katy Perry would be "fun" and "feisty."
And what about Mariah Carey? "I would love her," he admits, "but you can't expect someone who's just had two kids to make the kind of commitment you would need on this show."