September 16th, 2009
02:06 PM ET

An open letter to Paula Abdul

Dear Paula,

First off, we're really sorry to see you leave "American Idol." Even though we don't quite understand why the reported $3 million you were making on the show wasn't enough, we respect your decision. And yes, we are looking forward to seeing you host the return of “VH1 Divas" on Thursday night. Because we really do love you.

And it's because we love you that we feel it's time for some tough love and blunt advice: Fire your team. Whether it was your PR people, manager, agent, or gardener who advised you during your "American Idol" contract talks, someone clearly and repeatedly dropped the ball. And as your business-minded ex-colleague Simon Cowell would agree, somebody on Team Paula deserves to get sent packing. Need convincing? We count at least three colossal goofs that were made on your behalf in recent weeks:

1.) In July, presumably during the height of your salary talks with "American Idol," your manager told the Los Angeles Times that you might not return to the show. If that was a ploy to rally the American people into a "Save Paula" frenzy that would have folks jamming phone lines, taking to the streets and packing town hall meetings until "Idol's" producers showed you the money, then it backfired big time. Instead, that defiant public statement during what had been private salary talks probably made both sides dig in their heels. Your fate on "American Idol" likely was sealed right there and then. Strike One.

2.) To announce your departure from "American Idol," you opted not to work with your former employers to issue the standard "Paula-has-decided-to-pursue-other-opportunities" press release. No, that would have just let everyone save face - and left open the door for you to come back later. Instead, you blindsided your "Idol" colleagues (and closed, barricaded and nailed shut the door to your return) by announcing your "Idol" departure in a short Twitter post. Now, Paula, this one was mostly your bad. But it was your team's job to save you from yourself - even if it had meant hiding your BlackBerry. Strike Two.

3.) The day Ellen DeGeneres was announced as your replacement, "Showbiz Tonight" asked your publicists for a comment. Their response: "No statement from Paula. She has moved on." This was the most baffling mistake yet! A warm statement of congratulations and best wishes would have made you look classy and cost you nothing. Instead, you looked petty. Yes, your people eventually did release a more gracious statement. But a star of your caliber needs a team that gets it right the first time. Strike Three.

We know that you're an incredibly sweet person. So if you find it hard to summon the ruthlessness to fire your team and save your career, just re-read this letter. And then ask yourself one simple question: what would Simon do?

To paraphrase one of our favorite songs of yours: "We're Forever Your Fans."

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