SIMON Cowell has revealed his delight at Ant McPartlin’s plan to return to TV screens for next year’s Britain’s Got Talent.
It prompted Ant to stand down from co-hosting this year’s I’m A Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here! and postpone next year’s series of Saturday Night Takeaway.
But boss Simon is optimistic Ant will be back at auditions for BGT when it begins filming next spring and has praised his friend for doing “the right thing” by taking a break.
Simon explained: “That is what I always thought would happen, so I am happy to hear that. He is welcome back and we have missed him. But he has done the right thing by taking some time off, and he will come back fresh and will enjoy it.
“We didn’t speak while he was in rehab but we got messages through Dec – as we have always done – but I didn’t want to impose on his privacy.
“But we have always made it clear what our relationship is, we help each other. We are friends and he is welcome back anytime.”
Despite relaunching the new-look X Factor tonight, Simon is already looking ahead to his other upcoming shows, BGT and new BBC1 talent contest The Greatest Dancer, and renewing his contract with ITV, which expires at the end of 2019.
And he remains confident The X Factor will run beyond next year’s 16th series as Simon has received offers to take the show elsewhere if ITV ever decides to axe it.
He said: “Well to be honest with you it’s really difficult. I’ve got three offers on the table this month from broadcasters who want to do a deal on this show and on Britain’s Got Talent.
“I mean they are proven brands and they bring in the right audience so that has never been an issue.
“We’ve turned down bigger deals in the past but all I’m saying is we know the audience it brings in and what it looks like in advertising.
“But funnily enough, I have never been concerned about not getting a new deal. My concern is more of a personal thing to make sure the audience don’t get bored with it.
“Luckily the public still like these shows and they’ve liked them for longer than we ever thought. We’ve never had a problem selling the show.”
And despite approaching his 60th birthday — which he jokes is “the new 40” — Simon reaffirmed his intention to never retire.
He added: “Oh forget it. No, I mean the good thing is the shows do well, they’re fun, and they’re producing talent, which is the most important thing. So why would you walk away from that? I wouldn’t.
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“And then, when my son Eric is at an age where he learns enough and wants to do it, but knows these people are friends, he will do.
“That’s always what I’ve wanted my company to be — that’s definitely my long-term plan.”
Milions down the drain
ANT and Dec face losing millions of pounds after the collapse of an exclusive Algarve complex where they bought villas.
Documents show the TV hosts are owed around £2.5million each following a financial disaster affecting buyers at The Keys development in Quinta do Lago.
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