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Simon Cowell is preparing for what could be a messy legal battle.
According to Variety, the 60-year-old entrepreneur has hired Hollywood litigator Larry Stein as the America's Got Talent investigation begins. Cowell, who executive produces the show, came under fire last month after it was confirmed that Gabrielle Union would not return to host the competition series. Though it was initially believed Union had left America's Got Talent on good terms, insiders claimed the actress' contract was terminated because she had spoken up about the "toxic" culture behind the scenes.
Union was allegedly subjected to racist and sexist criticism, like being told that her hair and makeup were "too black" for the show's audience. Sources say she also took issue with guest judge Jay Leno, who allegedly made an unaired joke that perpetuated Korean stereotypes.
However, the Leno incident is one of several examples of what insiders called a toxic culture at the show. The season concluded with NBC deciding not to renew the contracts of [Julianne] Union and Hough, sources said, both of whom could have been renewed for another season under their contractual options.
Howard Stern, a former AGT judge, addressed the scandal on Monday's episode of his eponymous radio show. Stern accused Cowell of "orchestrating" Union and Hough's termination, as he was looking to add "hotter chicks and younger chicks" to the series.
"How is it that Simon Cowell has orchestrated this?" Stern asked. "He sets it up that the men stay, no matter how ugly they are, no matter how old they are, no matter how fat they are, no matter how talentless they are."
Following the Variety report, Union met with NBC, production company Fremantle, and Syco Entertainment, which produces AGT, to discuss concerns. Union tweeted that the meeting lasted about five hours and she spent that time expressing her "unfiltered truth."
Cowell, who is in the UK filming the X Factor, did not attend the meeting, which, according to an NBC spokesperson, was both "candid and productive."
"While there will be a further investigation to get a deeper understanding of the facts, we are working with Gabrielle to come to a positive resolution," the spokesperson said in a statement.