Months before The X Factor was set to debut on Fox, a scandal rocked the series. Producers axed judge Cheryl Cole and replaced with co-host Nicole Scherzinger. However, Nicole's former manager claims this was the plan all along — and Cheryl was just being used for publicity!

Credit: Butterworth/Splash News Photo: Cheryl Cole at The X Factor's Chicago Auditions on May 19, 2011

"Simon Cowell always wanted her as a judge," Jeff told Heat magazine (via Digital Spy). "There was never a question that she wouldn't get it. I had long discussions with Simon about her judging the U.S. show and she was always a frontrunner for that job."

Girls Aloud singer Cheryl's heavy English accent was rumored to be one of the reasons she was replaced, but Jeff claimed that wasn't the case. "I think Cheryl's accent never came into it," he said. "It was an excuse. Americans are used to all sorts of accents. […] Cheryl was just being used as a cog in the wheel to cause hype and publicize the show."

An X Factor spokesperson called Jeff's accusations "complete and utter rubbish." Nicole defended herself on Kidd Kraddick's radio show (via Digital Spy). "I was very hurt by that because that was my ex-manager," Nicole said. "It unfortunately goes to show how much he doesn't know, because the people at Fremantle[Media] and all the powers that be have no idea who he is because he wasn't involved."

One person who isn't blaming Nicole for the drama is Cheryl, who sent both Nicole and fellow judge Paula Abdul giant, gorgeous bouquets of flowers at the New Jersey X Factor auditions in June 2011.

Sources: Digital Spy, Digital Spy