Did Paula bolt Idol due to lost endorsement deal?

Although all involved have tried to minimize the damage, there is little doubt that Paula Abdul's departure from American Idol has ripped the beating heart out of the show's chest. Worse than the injury to the show, however, is the underlying economic fiasco that it has revealed: as Simon Cowell pulls down $30 million per year according to the New York Times, one has to wonder why Idol producers can't come up with a measly $10 million a year. Granted, this is a jump from 2008's $3.5 million ($2 million in salary plus $1.5 million for wardrobe and makeup), but many viewers would agree that it is well worth it to put Paula back behind the table.

Now a new twist has come to light, helping to explain why Paula wants more money. In addition to feeling that she is worth at least as much as Ryan Seacrest to the show, Paula believes that she lost a 2006 endorsement deal with a major fashion label because of rumors that she had been drinking or doing drugs prior to Idol promotional appearances. She wants more money, in part, to compensate her for the lost deal which she blames on Idol's failure to squash these rumors. While it would not surprise me if Paula feels that way, my own eyes suggest to me that Paula has not always been 100 percent sober during her appearances on Idol over the years.

As this drama unfolds, Paula is talking to several networks about her next steps. ABC, NBC and the producer of Fox's So You Think You Can Dance are all taking meetings with her. TMZ.com reports that ABC is talking to Paula about being a contestant on Dancing with the Stars and appearing on an episode of Ugly Betty. Considering that she began her career as an LA Laker Girl, appearing on Dancing would mark a return to her professional roots.

But if Idol producers cannot come up with the money needed to keep Paula on the show, we may look back on 2009 as the year that Idol jumped the shark.

Peter Cohan is a management consultant, Babson professor and author of eight books including, You Can't Order Change. Follow him on Twitter. He has no financial interest in the securities mentioned.
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