Lionel Richie has finalized a deal to join the rebooted American Idol as its third judge, joining previously inked judges Katy Perry and Luke Bryan. As Variety reports, the move to secure Richie comes at the 11th hour, as the show was slated to begin live auditions next Tuesday. ABC and producer FremantleMedia had faced the possibility of having to delay the start of production if the judge’s table had not been set. Richie was said by sources to be a favorite choice of Perry, and had for months been in engaged in on-again, off-again talks. But Variety says the singer had reportedly backed away from discussions after fielding a lowball offer from ABC.
The network and producers had initially hit a roadblock when filling out the rest of the show’s talent roster after signing Perry in May to a lucrative $25 deal for one season. Host Ryan Seacrest later struck a deal that reportedly gave him $15 million to host this season. The Perry and Seacrest agreements left fewer than $10 million in the initial talent budget ABC laid out for the show, but Richie and ABC were finally able to come to terms after a search that involved such names as Charlie Puth, former Idol judge Keith Urban, manager Scooter Braun, Dolly Parton, Common and Troy Carter. ABC has yet to announce a firm premiere date for the next generation of American Idol, but it is believed the network is eyeing a debut in March, after its telecast of the Academy Awards.