Cowell's production company SYCOtv debuts the British show The X-Factor, where Cowell judges and mentors talent alongside Sharon Osbourne and music manager Louis Walsh. The show pulls in over 7.4 million viewers its first season, but Cowell ends up in a lawsuit with Simon Fuller, who thinks it's too much like his show Pop Idol. The two eventually settle out of court.
Cowell becomes executive producer for the new ABC series American Inventor where contestants compete for $1 million by creating the next "it" gadget. The show debuts in the Top 20 ratings, and the first season winner takes home the prize for a baby car seat made of plastic-bubbles.
Cowell quietly dates Extra TV correspondent Terri Seymour for 3 ½ years. "I think I'm a very good boyfriend," Cowell insists. "I'm a good kisser and I like to be spontaneous." But, don't get him wrong, he isn't all hugs and kisses, "Obvious things like flowers and chocolates, I find fake." They split in 2008.
As creator and executive producer, Cowell wrangles singer Brandy, actor David Hasselhoff and former newspaper editor Piers Morgan to judge his new summertime NBC series America's Got Talent, the latest TV hunt for would-be stars. Talk show veteran Regis Philbin hosts the show, encouraging the dancers, magicians and singers in competition for a $1 million prize. Twelve-year-old singer Bianca Ryan takes home the prize, and the show returns for a second season in May 2007, but this time without Brandy and Philbin, who are replaced by Sharon Osbourne and Jerry Springer, respectively.
American Idol's "Idol Gives Back," a two-episode special to help children in Africa and impoverished American cities, airs. With performances by Gwen Stefani, Bono and Pink, the show raises $76 million for different charities. "At the end of the day, all of us have made, have done very well out of this show," Cowell, who visited Kenya, says. "So I'm glad that we can do something back." In 2008, a second "Idol Gives Back" concert and fundraiser airs.
Already a success in the U.K., Cowell's singing sensation, 23-year-old Leona Lewis – whom he judged and mentored on X-Factor in 2006 – makes her mark in America with her No. 1 single, "Bleeding Love," off her No. 1 debut album, Spirit. "He's bloody hilarious," Lewis says of Cowell. "He can be soft – he's a genuinely nice guy when you get to know him."
When Paula Abdul decides to leave Idol, Cowell welcomes Ellen DeGeneres to the judges' panel – and announces that the ninth season will be his last. The snarky judge says he's leaving Idol in an effort to focus on the U.S. launch of X-Factor. "I've had the best 10 years of my life," Cowell says during his farewell on the ninth season finale. "So I genuinely mean this: Thank you and I'm going to miss you."
Cowell, 50, prepares to walk down the aisle with Idol makeup artist Mezghan Hussainy, 36, a source who knows the couple tells PEOPLE. "You just know when you've found somebody special," says Cowell – who neither confirms or denies the engagement. "And I feel very, very happy." In Sept. 2011, the couple quietly calls it quits.
Sources confirm to PEOPLE that Cowell, 53, is expecting his first child with Lauren Silverman, a 36-year-old socialite and the soon-to-be ex-wife of one of The X Factor judge's good friends, Andrew Silverman. "There are a lot of things I will eventually clear up when the time is right, but I really have to be sensitive because there's a lot of people's feelings involved here," he tells PEOPLE.
It's a boy! Cowell and Silverman welcome a son, his rep confirms to PEOPLE exclusively. "Very happy to say Eric was born," Cowell Tweeted shortly after the announcement. "Healthy and handsome. Lauren in great shape. Thanks for all of your kind messages."
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): Courtesy Thames Television; Matt Baron/BEImages; Chris Haston/NBC/Everett; FOX; Carlos Diaz/INF; Courtesy of EW; INF; X17 Online; Courtesy Simon Cowell