The mistake Factor: Dermot O'Leary reveals how Simon Cowell won him over

Dermot O'Leary in Dublin for 2016 auditions of The X Factor
Dermot O'Leary in Dublin for 2016 auditions of The X Factor (Image credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images)

Dermot O'Leary is back hosting The X Factor one year after being replaced. He reveals how music mogul Simon Cowell lured him back...

There's been a lot of speculation about how and why Dermot O'Leary left The X Factor last year - and why and how he was tempted back. Finally presenter Dermot has revealed everything to The Sun.

It turns out Dermy was asked to return to the show during a midnight phone call from Simon Cowell, who admitted he had made a mistake in letting O’Leary go!

Dermot will return to host the singing competition when the 13th series begins next weekend.

Dermot O'Leary arrives at Croke Park in Dublin, ahead of the Dublin auditions for the upcoming series of the X Factor.

Dermot at the Dublin auditions (Garrett White/PA)

He had been replaced for one series by Olly Murs and Caroline Flack.

The presenter told The Sun he got a late-night call in February from Simon, who told him: “I’ve made a mistake, I’d love to get you back.”

Caroline Flack and Olly Murs attending the Music Industry Trusts Award (MITS) in aid of charities Nordon Robbins and Brit Trust at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London.

Caroline and Olly (Ian West/PA)

After the discussion, Dermot got a flight to Hollywood to meet Simon. He said: “It was a lot less awkward than I thought it was going to be.

“Simon and I spoke about where we thought the show had lost its way and how to bring the heart and soul back. That was key for me.”

Thames TV handout photo of host Dermot O'Leary (left) and the new X-Factor judging panel of (second left to right) Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, Simon Cowell, Mel B and Louis Walsh

Dermot with the 2014 judging panel (Thames TV)


Dermot, 43, has reportedly signed a lucrative new contract with the ITV show but told the newspaper that money was not a factor in his decision to return.

He said: “I’ve been like that since I was a runner on nine-and-a-half grand a year. I’ve never taken a job purely for the money.

“With The X Factor it was, ‘What would make you come back? What would you like to do with the show?’ I didn’t worry about money.”

X Factor host Dermot O'Leary arrives at the King Power Stadium in Leicester, as the auditions for X Factor 2016 begin.

(Rui Viera/PA)


Dermot admitted he was forced to leave the hit series after hearing bosses were “looking at other presenters” — including his eventual replacement Olly, who was paired with Caroline.

He said: “I don’t have a God-given right to that job.

“But I always said, ‘If I find out they are talking to anyone else, I’m not going to play games, I’ll just go’.

Dermot O'Leary and Dee Koppang attending the Elle Style Awards 2016 held at Tate Britain in Millbank, London

Dermot with his wife Dee (Ian West/PA)


“So I called my wife and woke her up to tell her I was leaving The X Factor — which was a shock, as you can imagine. Then I went home, took a shower, went in and the rest played out.

“I called ITV and actually didn’t speak to Simon. I texted Simon and got a lovely text back but at the time I wanted to keep that at arm’s length.”

Dermot will return to the line-up along with judges Simon, Louis Walsh, Sharon Osbourne and Nicole Scherzinger.

Hands up who's happy Dermot has returned?

Elaine Reilly
Writer for TV Times, What’s On TV, TV & Satellite Week and What To Watch

With twenty years of experience as an entertainment journalist, Elaine writes for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and covering a variety of programs from gardening and wildlife to documentaries and drama.


As well as active involvement in the WTW family’s social media accounts, she has been known to get chatty on the red carpet and wander into the odd podcast. 

After a day of previewing TV, writing about TV and interviewing TV stars, Elaine likes nothing than to relax… by watching TV.