Liam Payne's decision to sign a solo deal with Capitol Records was "unexpected", Simon Cowell has admitted.
The 22-year-old singer is currently on hiatus from his band One Direction, who are signed to Simon's company Syco Music, and announced last week (ends24Jul16) that he has agreed to a solo deal with Capitol - Syco and parent label Sony's competitor.
The news of the signing came as a surprise even to Simon, who has mentored the group since they were formed on U.K. TV talent show The X Factor in 2010.
Speaking to Entertainment Tonight, Simon admitted: "I was slightly surprised to read that Liam signed to another label. I wasn't expecting it. But you know, that happens."
Simon's confession comes after he hinted that he was unhappy with Liam's move during an interview with thesun.co.uk by failing to mention the pop star when praising his three bandmates Niall Horan, Harry Styles, and Louis Tomlinson.
When asked about the contract, Simon reportedly dodged the question and said, "We're in touch with them all. The great thing about all these boys - well not all of them but most of them - they are incredibly loyal and you don't always expect that... Niall, Harry, Louis - amazing."
Liam has yet to comment on Simon's remarks, but used his Twitter page to thank his fans for their support following the news that his solo career will be managed by David Beckham's management team Doyen Global.
He tweeted: "Thank you for trending me today I hope I always make u guys proud in one way or another."