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Top Execs Who Started at the Bottom

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Simon Cowell

Occupation: A&R Executive, TV Producer, “The X Factor” Judge
Mailroom: EMI Records

Cowell—best known for his stinging insults and bitter bluntness on the British “Pop Idol” and then Fox’s “American Idol”—began his career in the mailroom of EMI Records and worked his way up to become an executive producer with the BMG label, signing boy bands Westlife and Five—acts that scored multiple No. 1 singles in the U.K. and throughout Europe. Despite being nicknamed “Mr. Nasty” over the years, his true success is built on his TV-friendly personality and his devotion to churning out premier musical talent.

Cowell is now worth a reported $85 million, thanks in part to a deal that lets him sign “Pop Idol” winners to his own record label.

Photo Background: Stan Honda | AFP | Getty Images