I’m so glad my father had the J-factor, says Cowell

Simon Cowell, the man who has made a name for himself by unearthing the talent of others, has revealed a personal discovery of his own - his Jewishness.

The X Factor judge said he had been "absolutely thrilled" to discover that his late father Eric - whom he cited as a major influence on his success - was Jewish.

Speaking this week at the annual dinner of the children and family charity, Norwood, Mr Cowell, 49, said: "I found out only three or four years ago when a newspaper traced my family tree.

"I wasn't that surprised when they told me - my brother [Nick] has worked in property for years, and I am in the entertainment business. So, I wasn't surprised. I was absolutely thrilled."

Eric Cowell, a former estate agent and music executive, was the son of Joseph Cowell and Esther Malinsky, who married in 1915 at West Ham Synagogue.

While Esther came from Poland with her family, probably arriving in Britain around 1890, Joseph was born in the East End of London, the son of Joseph Allerton Cowell and Nancy Levy.

Eric died nine years ago but remained an influential figure in his son's life. "It was the values he instilled in me," Mr Cowell said later.

Pressed for his recipe for success in the modern world, he said: "It's those values: you have to work hard, be patient and understand what you are good at doing."

Best known as a judge on hit television shows such as Pop Idol, American Idol, The X Factor, and Britain's Got Talent, Mr Cowell is the owner of the TV production and music publishing house Syco and is worth an estimated £112 million, according to this year's Sunday Times Rich List.

Has he lost millions in the credit crunch? Errr, no.

More than 1,000 guests attended the dinner, which was held at the Grosvenor House in Park Lane and raised £2.8 million.

    Last updated: 5:48pm, November 20 2008