Fox nearly slammed the door on Paula Abdul’s return to “American Idol” — but not quite.
“We made an offer we feel is very fair to Paula” that included a substantial raise, Fox Entertainment Chairman Peter Rice told the Television Critics Association on Wednesday.
But Abdul decided against returning for the hit singing contest’s ninth season, he said.
Female pop stars will serve as guest judges for the seven-week audition process set to begin Friday in Denver, with Victoria Beckham and Katy Perry the first to be announced by Fox.
Beckham's spokeswoman, Cheryl Maisel, says Beckham will appear on one episode of the show, which begins its new season in January.
Beckham's manager is "American Idol" creator Simon Fuller. The 35-year-old Posh Spice of the Spice Girls is married to soccer star David Beckham.
Asked after the session what the network would do if Abdul sought to reopen negotiations, Rice replied: “I have no expectation that Paula’s going to do that. And in terms of the negotiations themselves, the negotiations have concluded.”
Asked what Fox’s reaction would be if Abdul agreed to take the network’s last offer, Rice replied he didn’t expect her to. But he didn’t respond when asked what the network would do if she agreed to it.
The offer is for a multiyear, eight-figure deal that represents a 30 percent increase for Abdul, according to a person familiar with the talks. The person, who was not authorized to speak publicly, asked not to be identified.
Rice said the network is saddened by Abdul’s decision but looks forward to finding a permanent replacement for her who could bring a new dynamic to the show.
Original judges Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson are returning for the ninth season, which starts next January, and will be joined for a second year by Kara DioGuardi.
Cowell’s contract expires after the season and Fox is talking to him about returning, Rice said.
“We have a wonderful relationship with Simon. We are in the middle of a new contract negotiation with him and our expectation is he will remain with the show,” the executive said.