Simon Cowell Back in the Boy Band Biz!!! Holding Auditions in UK

Simon Cowell is ready to get back into the boy band game ... and is already on the hunt for his next One Direction-esque success story.

Almost 15 years after making magic by bringing together Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson and Zayn Malik as a group on "X Factor," the record executive is searching for "future megastars" who are ready to put in the work to achieve international fame.

Simon announced his new project Tuesday, dropping recruitment billboards across London, which read ... "Simon needs you! Future megastars wanted for new boyband. No timewasters."

Simon Cowell Disses Liam Payne in Un-aired Clip ... 'He Thinks He's Better Than Anyone Else'

SIMON'S SHOT
ITV

Liam Payne's gonna hate this clip -- at least one part of it -- because the never-before-seen footage shows Simon Cowell taking a slight dig at the young singer while forming One Direction.

ITV dropped the un-aired video from back in 2010 ... it's the moment 'X Factor' judges Simon Cowell, Nicole Scherzinger and Louis Walsh picked the lineup of singers for the group that would become One Direction.

ICYMI, last month, Liam upset some folks by claiming 1D was formed around him -- he said the judges started with him before adding in the other singers ... Niall Horan, Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson and Zayn Malik.

Liam made the claim on Logan Paul's Podcast saying, Simon "started with my face, and then worked around the rest. I was the honorary member of One Direction. He told me that story himself at his house"

Well, the new footage doesn't exactly bear that out -- Simon did say Liam had a great audition. However, he snidely added, "He thinks he's better than anyone else in that list."

To Liam's credit ... Simon was clearly impressed, but seemed to think he was a bit cocky.

Of course, we know One Direction ended up becoming one of the biggest boy bands of all time, before going their separate ways in 2016 ... and now we know, just how it all started.

'X Factor' Star Tom Mann Fiancee Dies Suddenly on Wedding Day ... Simon Cowell Offers Condolences to Family

UPDATE

11:02 AM PT -- Simon Cowell, who served as a judge during Tom's time on the show, just released an emotional statement about Dani's death, telling TMZ, "As a father myself, I simply cannot imagine the heartbreak Tom and his family are going through and will be personally reaching out to him. From my family to his, we extend our deepest condolences and all of our love during this tragic time."

"The X Factor" star Tom Mann suffered a horrible tragedy over the weekend ... his fiancee died just hours before their wedding.

Dani Hampson, a 34-year-old publicist, had no apparent health issues and the cause of her death has not been revealed.

She had posted pics of her and Tom, along with their 8-month-old son Bowie, just days before she died.

Tom and Dani were actually supposed to get married Sept. 25, 2020, but the pandemic got in the way. At the time she posted, "I can't wait to marry you, but the world has other plans."

Waiting for your permission to load the Instagram Media.

Dani also had posted a video of Tom -- a member of the group Stereo Kicks -- singing Elton John and Dua Lipa's song, "Cold Heart."

She used the song to wish Bowie, "Happy 6 months my darling boy." She wrote, "I played this song almost every day of my 3rd trimester, it was in my labour playlist & it was number 1 the day Bowie was born… determined for it to be "our song" & for it always remind us of life's good bits."

Tom announced Dani's death Monday, calling her the "brightest light in any room," adding he will miss her forever. He told his followers, "I can't believe I am writing these words but my darling Dani - my best friend, my everything and more, the love of my life - passed away in the early hours of Saturday morning, 18th June. On what was supposed to be the happiest day of our lives ended in irreversible heartbreak."

He went on to say, "I am completely broken trying to process this and I honestly don't know where to go from here, but I do know I need to use any strength I can muster for our little boy."

Tom auditioned as a solo singer for 'X Factor' back in 2014, but producers created the group, Stereo Kicks, of which he was a member.

Dani was 34.

RIP

Originally Published -- 6:40 AM PT

Former 'X Factor' Star Thomas Wells Dead at 46

Thomas Wells, famous for singing on a ton of talent competition shows including 'X Factor,' is dead ... TMZ has learned.

Thomas died earlier this month following an accident while working on the job at a tire manufacturing plant in Oklahoma ... according to his wife, Jessica Wells.

We're told part of Thomas' body was caught in a machine, described to us as an automatic conveyer belt type of machine which did not stop, and he was rushed to a nearby hospital in Idabel, OK.

Thomas' wife says he was then airlifted to a bigger hospital in Tyler, Texas ... because doctors thought specialists in Tyler might be able to help him.

Ultimately, we're told Thomas died in the hospital in Tyler back on November 13.

You may have seen Thomas singing his heart out on TV ... he appeared on "America's Got Talent" as well as "The Voice" and "The Winner Is" ... in addition to 'X Factor.'

Thomas got into music at an early age, teaching himself to play instruments by ear and singing choir at church and in school in Oklahoma. He mostly sang hymns and contemporary music.

His wife of 17 years is remembering him as a unique person who always had a smile on his face and tried to make people laugh. She says he would sometimes bust out singing and didn't mind the spotlight.

Thomas was 46.

RIP

Former 'X Factor' Star Freddie Combs Dead at 49

Freddie Combs -- the minister who became a fan favorite on the second season of "The X Factor" thanks to his heavenly voice -- has died ... TMZ has learned.

According to his wife Kay ... Freddie died last Friday surrounded by friends and family at a hospital in Florida. She tells us his death was not Covid-related, but the result of kidney failure.

Kay says Freddie was diligently working on his weight loss over the past 11 years -- he had weighed over 900 lbs, getting all the way down to 385 lbs. -- and she's very proud of him. Sadly, she says she knew he was going to pass the day before he did, adding ... "I have so much gratitude to be his wife for 25 years and to be his best friend."

You may recall ... Freddie wowed the judges and audience during his 'X Factor' audition in Season 2 of the U.S. series, as the 540-lb. minister belted out a beautiful rendition of "Wind Beneath My Wings."

Simon Cowell and L.A. Reid promised to back him if he promised to get healthy, lose weight and get out of his wheelchair ... and Freddie vowed to do so.

Though he was eliminated shortly after, his story inspired many folks because he'd already lost more than 400 lbs. since 2009 ... when he topped 920 lbs.

Freddie and Kay, who struggles with weight issues as well, were also featured on a 2010 TLC special called "Ton of Love."

He was 49.

RIP

Simon Cowell Cancels 'X Factor Israel' Gig ... Cites 'Legitimate Concerns'

Simon Cowell has 86'd his plan to travel to Israel for his TV franchise ... and although he isn't saying specifically why, it seems the cancellation is due in part to the recent violence.

Simon was scheduled to be a judge on "X Factor Israel" but a rep for the production announced Simon would not be part of the show. As for why, the rep would only say Simon canceled "for his own reasons" which involved "legitimate concerns" -- this according to Variety. There was no specific reference to the conflict between Israel and Hamas, but it's not hard to read between the lines.

We tried reaching out to Cowell's rep ... so far, no word back.

As you know, Simon broke his back last year after hopping on his new e-bike and crashing to the ground. It's unclear if the back injury was a factor, but Simon has bounced back so it seems unlikely.

Representatives for Cowell did not respond to multiple requests for comment. A Jewish News report last week cited a source close to Cowell as saying that the media mogul was “bitterly disappointed” that he could not take part for “a number of reasons.”

In case you didn't know ... "X Factor Israel" has been a thing from 2013 to the present. Simon has previously appeared in trailers for the show.

Rita Ora Accepts Date With Russian 'Bachelor' ... But Her Manager Won't Set Them Up!!!

Rita Ora is totally down for a night on the town with hunky Russian 'Bachelor' Alex Sparrow, but there's a huge problem ... her manager is standing in the way.

Alex -- a textbook thirst trap who also won the Russian version of 'X Factor' -- says on the "Hidden Truth Show with Jim Breslo" he met Rita a couple of months ago at the American Music Awards, where he asked her out. According to Alex, Rita said yes, but he's still waiting for their big date.

The holdup ... Alex didn't ask for Rita's digits -- he wanted to be respectful, so he got her manager's number instead, and now there's been nothing but radio silence.

Alex is shooting his shot once again ... he's hoping Rita's management team catches wind and hits him up to facilitate the date.

It's easy to see why Rita would go out with Alex ... on top of his dashing good looks, he's a star in Russia, with 3.7 million Instagram followers and millions of views on his YouTube music vids.

We kinda feel bad for Alex, but then again it's kinda his fault ... c'mon bro, why didn't you just ask for Rita's number?!?

Simon Cowell Mansion Hit by Burglars ... WHILE HE'S HOME!!

Simon Cowell was home with gf Lauren Silverman and their son Eric when burglars broke into their London mansion and made off with a bunch of cash and jewelry.

The break-in went down early Friday morning, and the thieves made a clean getaway. Cops confirm they were called for a burglary in progress at around 2:20 AM.

Simon and his family were not hurt -- they were reportedly asleep at the time -- and had left the house by the time police arrived to begin their investigation.

Simon attended rehearsals for the 'X Factor' finale on Friday afternoon ... as if nothing had happened. Neither Simon nor police have said how much money the crooks took.

'X Factor' Singer Sues My Gym Was a Hollywood Casting Couch

It's the oldest story in Hollywood -- naive girl comes to La La Land ... only to be seduced by a pervy boss ... so claims a former "X-Factor" contestant in a new lawsuit.

Katie Waissel -- who appeared on the U.K. show -- moved to L.A. last year looking for fame and fortune ... but she needed a job to pay the bills, so she applied at Equinox in Woodland Hills, CA.

Katie claims the manager, Matt Lee, took an instant liking to her and gave her some very personal attention. Katie says Matt interviewed her several times -- at fancy restaurants where they drank. She says it didn't seem odd, because she had "little familiarity with the American hiring process."

She claims Matt then amped it up, showing up at her house with gifts, groceries and taking her out to more lunches and dinners. She says he also insisted she use his Amex card for gas.

Then Katie says things turned ... after a night of drinking she says she rejected Matt's advances, but says she gave in after he guilted her into feeling ungrateful.

She says she complained to Equinox, but they treated her like the bad guy ... so she's suing Lee and the health club for sexual harassment and retaliation.

Equinox had no comment. We left a message for Matt, but got no return call.

G.R.L. Singer Simone Battle Money Problems a Factor in Suicide

G.R.L. singer Simone Battle had been struggling with financial problems before committing suicide ... TMZ has learned.

We know friends and family members told law enforcement ... Battle was depressed over money issues recently -- the family wasn't specific but they were clear ... money was bringing her down.

The family didn't quite understand, because Battle was part of a successful singing group that had just completed an overseas tour.

People close to Battle told cops ... she was frustrated that she hadn't hit in the U.S. and worried she never would. Apparently Battle wasn't cutting it financially overseas.

We broke the story ... the 25-year-old singer was found hanging from a clothing rod in a bedroom closet of her West Hollywood home. Her boyfriend found the body about 8:30 A.M. We're told he had last seen her alive about 5 hours earlier.

'X Factor' Star Simone Battle Father Confused by Apparent Suicide

Former "X Factor" contestant Simone Battle's suicide has stunned her father ... who says the "G.R.L." singer never once let on that she was suffering as she got a taste of success in Hollywood.

Anthony Battle tells us he and his daughter hadn't spoke on the phone in a few weeks ... but they texted every day and she seemed to be doing just fine.

In fact, he says Simone was excited about where her career was heading. G.R.L. had recorded and released a song with Pitbull earlier this year.

We're told close friends of the 25-year old singer spoke with her via text the night before her death -- they also didn't sense anything was wrong.

When we asked Anthony if Simone was battling depression ... he said he was unaware of anything like that, but acknowledged ... "It's possible she may have had an invisible disability."

Anthony tells us Simone's boyfriend discovered her body in her bedroom ... but he doesn't suspect foul play.

An autopsy is scheduled for Sunday.

'X Factor' Star Simone Battle Dies at 25 ... From Apparent Suicide

7:35 AM PT -- Law enforcement sources tell TMZ Simone was found hanging on a rod in the closet of her bedroom around 8:30 AM on Friday.

Singer Simone Battle, who rose to fame on the US version of "X Factor" ... was found dead in her Los Angeles home ... and TMZ has learned it appears to be a suicide.

25-year-old Battle was a singer in the girl group "G.R.L." ... which was the reboot of the Pussycat Dolls. She signed on with the group after her run on "X Factor" ... where she was a finalist, making it into the top 17.

The L.A. County Cororner's Office tells us Battle's autopsy has not been completed yet ... so, nothing has been ruled out as cause of death.

Simone's father told us she was found in the bedroom of her apartment in a West Hollywood neighborhood. He described her home as a guest house of a larger residence.

Story developing ...

In June, TMZ shot video of Simone and her 'GRL' bandmate Natasha Slayton. They were excited about their song "Wild Wild Love" with Pitbull.

'X Factor' Epic Fail Rejects Next Justin Bieber

"X Factor" -- the freshly cancelled singing competition show -- didn't help its chances of survival by booting a contestant who could have become the next Justin Bieber.

17-year-old John Lindahl auditioned for the show back in 2011, and eventually got kicked off in the second round.

Apparently ... Epic Records honcho L.A. Reid -- who was also an 'X Factor' judge at the time -- saw something the show didn't, because he immediately signed the Bieber look-alike to a sweet 5-album deal.

We got hold of the legal docs showing John is getting a $300K advance for his first album, and gets a pay hike for each subsequent album ... which could eventually land him up to $800,000.

Listen to him sing. It's like Justin without the sizzurp.

Simon Cowell Life Is Complicated with Baby

Simon Cowell was sent packing Friday ... just days after his baby was born, but not because Lauren Silverman threw him out -- because a judge laid down the law in her complicated custody case.

As we previously reported ... Lauren's nasty divorce from Andrew Silverman ended with a custody arrangement for their 7-year-old son Adam, which required Lauren to keep Simon away from the kid for a year. Adam stayed with Lauren over the last few days, which meant Simon needed to skedaddle.

Simon moved into the swanky St. Regis Hotel in NYC ... but we're told he moved back with Lauren when Adam left.

As for the immediate future ... we're told Simon will stay in NYC for 4 to 5 weeks, until their baby is allowed to fly. The new family will then go to London for "X Factor" auditions. They'll be in the UK for around 3 weeks and then return to NYC.

Our Simon sources say he and Lauren will split their time between NYC and London, and since he has a plane it's no big deal.

It comes as a sacrifice. Simon won't be spending much time in Bev Hills ... which he loves. Instead he'll be in NYC a lot -- a place he doesn't love.

Simon Cowell Daddy's Almost at the Hospital Keep Your Vagina Closed

Simon Cowell's baby mama better tighten up her lady parts ... 'cause the "X-Factor" judge just landed in New York -- and he's making a beeline for the hospital.

We broke the story ... Lauren Silverman went into labor early Friday morning -- and Simon rushed home from London to be there -- but based on his look in the pic ... the soon to be dad doesn't look too worried about missing things.

Something tells us he won't be filming the gruesome process.

Paulina Rubio Sues Telemundo Donde Esta My Money, Bitch?

"X Factor" judge Paulina Rubio doesn't take kindly to being snubbed ... in fact, she's now suing Telemundo for trying to replace her on the upcoming season of a kids-themed singing show.

Paulina -- who appeared as a coach on season 1 of Telemundo's "La Voz Kids" last year -- claims the network agreed to pay her $1.325 million to appear on the second season as well ... then reneged on the deal when it found someone cheaper to replace her with.

Paulina claims Telemundo offered up a weak excuse for the diss ... citing scheduling issues with Paulina's commitment to "X Factor" ... but she's not buying it.

Paulina wants Telemundo to cough up the $1.325 million stat ... plus another $100,000 for season 1 "La Voz Kids" clips featuring Paulina which the network sold for ad purposes.

A rep for Telemundo had no comment about the lawsuit.

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