EXCLUSIVEIs Louis Walsh the most toxic and bitter man on TV? KATIE HIND reveals why he has fallen out with everyone over the years from best mate Simon Cowell to Cheryl Tweedy. And his feud with Jedward risks reigniting X Factor abuse allegations…

Their bromance was once the most talked about in Britain. And when Simon Cowell launched his new talent show, The X Factor, back in 2004, he knew exactly who he wanted at his side: fellow music mogul Louis Walsh.

The two men had worked together before, for more than a decade, namely with Irish boybands Boyzone and Westlife.

The pair were regulars at Mayfair’s Cipriani restaurant, where they would confide in each other and plot their next moves over intimate dinner dates.

Yes, there were ups and downs — plenty of them — with each as petulant and colourful as the last.

In 2006, Walsh, who is now 71, sensationally quit the ITV talent show following rows with both Cowell and fellow judge Sharon Osbourne. She’d drenched him with water during a live recording, and Cowell went on to describe him as an ‘idiot’ and ‘stupid’.

The list of those who¿ve received a lashing from Walsh reads like a showbusiness roll call, with Girls Aloud singer Cheryl Tweedy and most of the bands he¿s represented over the years included
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The list of those who’ve received a lashing from Walsh reads like a showbusiness roll call, with Girls Aloud singer Cheryl Tweedy and most of the bands he’s represented over the years included

Walsh was eventually persuaded back but, a year later, Cowell sacked him again, this time to make way for U.S. dancer and choreographer Brian Friedman, who was briefly drafted in to the judging panel.

Within weeks, they’d kissed and made up with Walsh resuming his seat at the judges’ table and earning a reported £1million per series. He finally left in 2017, the year before the series ended for good.

But today, the two men do not speak. Cowell, no longer a social butterfly, is said to have ­distanced himself from Walsh. Walsh, ­meanwhile, will tell anyone who will listen that his former best friend has ditched him.

‘Louis doesn’t like Simon and he is very open about it,’ says a friend. ‘He can’t seem to understand why Simon has ghosted him. OK, so Simon doesn’t have a phone [he famously ditched his mobile in 2018], but for him to not be in touch with someone he worked with for decades is strange.’

The friend adds: ‘Louis can’t get hold of him, so you can imagine how acidic his tongue has become. It’s tiring. Simply put, life is too short for the bitterness and ­nastiness and everyone is a ­potential target.’

Indeed, they are.

The list of those who’ve received a lashing from Walsh reads like a showbusiness roll call, with Girls Aloud singer Cheryl Tweedy and most of the bands he’s represented over the years included.

This week he was on Celebrity Big Brother — where last night Walsh revealed that he had suffered a rare form of blood cancer which has now been cured — alongside his old nemesis Sharon Osbourne. In one episode, he insulted former X Factor contestants and Irish twins, John and Edward Grimes, aka Jedward. He described them as ‘vile’ before boasting he ‘got ­£5 million from them’.

It sparked a war of words with the now 32-year-olds. They hit back, branding Walsh an ‘evil manipulator’ who tried ‘to make us sign our name and life away in dodgy contracts to people he was great friends with’ and ‘forced us into an office to pay £70,000-plus to one of his own PR workers’. They also accused him of being a ‘cold hearted b*****d’ who didn’t send flowers after their mother’s death in 2019.

This isn’t the first time these two parties have traded insults. Their paths first crossed in 2009 when Walsh, then an X Factor judge, was appointed Jedward’s ­‘mentor’. Seven years later he described them as ‘the most embarrassing thing to happen to him’.

While Britain seems very much on the side of Team Jedward, I can reveal that some may think Walsh’s outburst was justified. The duo did indeed owe £70,000 to a London-based public relations firm called Hackford Jones, which was the bill for two years’ work done on their behalf in 2010 and 2011.

 

Cheryl Tweedy is another sworn enemy of Walsh. She and her Girls Aloud bandmates loathed him since the day he was appointed their manager after they won ITV talent show Popstars
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Cheryl Tweedy is another sworn enemy of Walsh. She and her Girls Aloud bandmates loathed him since the day he was appointed their manager after they won ITV talent show Popstars

Walsh, today reportedly worth £117million, was also represented by the now defunct organisation and was close to the publicist who looked after the brothers.

One associate of the company, which at the time also worked for boy band One Direction, says: ‘Louis was very friendly with the Hackford Jones [people] and he was cross that the boys hadn’t paid their bills for two years.

‘They had done a lot of work for Jedward who, as you can probably imagine, were quite high maintenance. Louis is fuming that they didn’t pay their way so put huge amounts of pressure on them to do so. He didn’t think there was anything wrong with that.’

A friend of Walsh’s also called me this week to reiterate that he had indeed made £5million from Jedward — but for them, not himself.

‘He took the standard cut but they became millionaires because of Louis,’ the friend said.

That didn’t stop Jedward’s former X Factor co-stars jumping to their defence on Wednesday amid the feud.

Katie Waissel, who appeared on the talent show in 2010, took to social media to say: ‘I can unequivocally state that you are by no means “vile”, if anything you are both absolutely the contrary to this! I stand firmly behind you in your corner, always.’

She also reignited an uncomfortable issue for ITV — namely claims of ‘abuse, manipulation and ­coercion’ that allegedly took place behind the scenes during the X Factor’s heyday, when Cowell, Walsh and Sharon Osbourne were at the helm.

Several former contestants, including Cher Lloyd, Rebecca Ferguson and Jedward, claim that they witnessed appalling and exploitative behaviour among some senior executives.

Their comments follow similar allegations by The X Factor’s 2010 winner Matt Cardle, who said the show ‘used people’ and insisted it was a ‘miracle’ there had not been many tragedies as a result. ­Waissel told the The Mail on Sunday in 2021 that she was sexually assaulted by an unnamed ­member of the X Factor team, while Lloyd, in a TikTok video two years ago, said the show ‘exploited’ her by selling her ‘a dream’, then taking her money’.

This week Walsh was on Celebrity Big Brother ¿ alongside his old nemesis Sharon Osbourne
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This week Walsh was on Celebrity Big Brother — alongside his old nemesis Sharon Osbourne

ITV has not responded to the allegations, though sources close to Cowell say that ‘he gave these people a career’.

Walsh’s outburst this week has ‘not done any favours’ to ITV’s hopes that the allegations would go away.

‘Putting Louis and Sharon in the Big Brother house was only ever going to bring the issues of the X Factor back to the forefront of people’s minds,’ says a source close to a group of former competitors. ‘They were nasty, nasty to so many people live on air, and there was all sorts going on backstage.

‘ITV’s recreation of these times has brought back a lot for people. There’s a feeling more claims will now come out of the woodwork.’

Then there’s Cheryl Tweedy, another sworn enemy of Walsh. She and her bandmates in Girls Aloud loathed him since the day he was appointed their manager after they won ITV talent show Popstars: The Rivals in 2002. He’d made it clear he wanted to work with the show’s boy band, One True Voice.

Rumour has it that Girls Aloud were furious Walsh turned down the pop hit Push The Button on their behalf, shortly before it was handed to rival band the ­Sugababes, who took it to number one for three weeks in 2005. ­Awkwardly for both, Cheryl then became a judge on the X Factor in 2008, where they would regularly snipe at each other. Walsh ­apparently became annoyed by Cheryl’s popularity, and the fact that her acts won the show two years running.

During their years of working together, Walsh compared Cheryl to a peacock, accusing her of believing the ITV series was ‘her show’. He even taunted her on air about looking ‘orange’.

On one occasion in 2010, a ­blazing row reportedly broke out between the pair, with one onlooker saying: ‘It was really heated between Louis and Cheryl. They were really going for it.’

Speaking afterwards, Walsh told me: ‘Cheryl thinks it’s all about her but it’s not. Just because she’s the nation’s treasure she gets all the attention but frankly I’ve had enough of her. It’s not her show, she’s just a part of it. She does the poor little girl thing but she’s exactly the opposite.’

Only last year, Walsh had another go at Cheryl, claiming she ‘lip-syncs’ rather than sings live when performing and would not win the X Factor if she was a contestant.

Hitting back, she described Walsh as ‘a silly old man looking for attention’.

Her views on Walsh are common knowledge throughout the showbusiness industry and I have my own experiences of Walsh’s sharp tongue. Back in 2007, he took me to watch Westlife at Wembley Arena, followed by an invitation for champagne at the former ­London members’ club Fifty.

While at times hilariously funny, Walsh took aim at most of the ­big names in the industry, even ­Westlife — literally one of the ­nicest bands you could meet.

He was still fuming about Brian McFadden leaving the band three years previously and was also, even back then, poking fun at Cowell’s apparently changing face and high-waisted trousers.

As we dined in Soho until the small hours, he was delighted to be recognised and, although it was a time that pre-dated selfies, loved the adoration as ‘the bloke from the X Factor’.

Despite finding fame and fortune for Boyzone in the mid 1990s, some of the band members don’t have much time for Walsh.

He was very close to the late Stephen Gately but on Big Brother this week let fans know precisely what he thinks of Ronan Keating when he called him a ‘p****’.

In 2009 Walsh, then an X Factor judge, was appointed Jedward¿s ­¿mentor¿. Seven years later he described them as ¿the most embarrassing thing to happen to him¿
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In 2009 Walsh, then an X Factor judge, was appointed Jedward’s ­‘mentor’. Seven years later he described them as ‘the most embarrassing thing to happen to him’

 

In the past, Walsh has called him a ‘little manufactured pop star, who actually believed his own publicity’. Addressing rumours that the Irish heartthrob could become the next James Bond amid the search for Daniel Craig’s replacement, Walsh said: ‘He’s not good enough to be James Bond. You know what . . . he’d put himself forward, that’s one thing about him.’

Westlife also claimed their former boss made their lives hell and was constantly threatening to axe them. Back in 2010, band ­members Shane Filan, Mark Feehily, Kian Egan, Nicky Byrne and Brian McFadden revealed that in their early days the Irishman constantly threatened them with the chop and would call them ‘fat’.

Egan said: ‘We lived in fear of Louis. He was like, “You’re done. I’m going to kick you out of the band. I’m going to put you on the next plane home. Only four ­people can fit in a taxi, not five.” ’

So what next for Walsh?

Friends of the star say that while he did Big Brother ‘purely for the money’ — it is estimated he was paid in the region of £250,000 for his time in the house — Walsh is also hopeful of a comeback, ­managing a high-profile band, after years of living a quiet life between London and Dublin.

But one former X Factor ­contestant profoundly disagrees.

‘Louis needs to crawl back under his rock and keep his mouth shut because if he carries on like this, it will end in tears. His tears.’

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