[Que Simon Cowell accent] “Well this has to be THE WORST news I have ever heard. Seriously. It’s like hearing a dog being run over by a car. I’m not saying that to be mean – I’m just telling you the truth.”

I’m laughing right now, but I’m sure you American Idol fans aren’t.

Barely a few months after learning that former judge Paula Abdul (the good witch) was not returning for the 9th season of America’s favorite singing competition, MSNBC has a breaking headline stating that Simon Cowell (the wicked witch) will also be exiting the show after Idol crowns its season 9 winner.

Cowell let the bomb drop during the Television Critics Association winter press tour out in Pasadena California today, at the same time announcing that his show X Factor will launch in the U.S. in 2011.

Simon was reportedly quoting as saying the following:

“We reached an agreement formally at half past 10 this morning, ‘X Factor’ will launch in America in 2011. Because of that this will be my last season on ‘American Idol’ this year,”

So what could prompt Simon to depart the show that he helped make famous (and vice a versa)? Behind-the-scenes issues? Personal issues? Oh wait… how about MONEY?

Said Simon:

“I was offered a lot of money to stay on (‘Idol’)…But that wasn’t the reason behind it. I wanted to do something different. I wanted a new challenge…You want to leave on a high…I’m very proud of what the show has achieved.”

The end of an era…

For those who need a translator: the man is tired of judging the same singing competition year after year. And while he gets paid roughly $36 million a season to judge Idol, he’ll make much bigger dividends as the owner of X Factor if the show – which is a talent competition a la America’s Got Talent –  turns out to be a hit. Cowell’s Idol contract forbid him from launching any competing venture, which X Factor will clearly be.

Fox executive Peter Rice is already doing damage control, assuring fans that American Idol will continue to run without Cowell. The question now is: will people still be interested in watching?

Fans were already somewhat jaded last season when new judge Kara DioGuardi was added to the roster, leading to widespread speculation (and later confirmation) that Abdul was on the way out. This upcoming 9th season (premiering this week) will determine just how well viewers deal with the DioGuardi/Abdul switch.

New Judge Kara DioGuardi Making Her Grand Entrance

So far, there’s been no announcement of who would take Simon’s place on the show (oh Simon, can we ever truly replace you?). Expect to hear rumors/nominations/announcements in the coming months.

How do  you Idol fans feel about all this? Let us know in the comments. Somewhere, I can see Ryan Seacrest jumping for joy…

The 9th season of American Idol kicks off this Tuesday, January 12th @ 8pm on Fox.

Source: MSNBC