Contract could be signed as early as next week.
By Gil Kaufman

Britney Spears
Photo: Ethan Miller/ Getty Images

Simon Cowell has hinted that he wants to reload the judges panel on “X Factor” with two new women and according to reports, he’s close to landing a superstar who might make the second season of his talent contest much more interesting.

While names including Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey have been bandied about as possible replacements for Nicole Scherzinger and Paula Abdul,
 the buzz has continued to focus on Britney Spears. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Spears’ fiancé/agent, Jason Trawick, is on the verge of closing a deal as early as next week.

Cowell has played it coy with the Spears rumors over the past several weeks, telling reporters in a conference call that “there’s going to be a lot of twists and turns over the next few weeks and a lot of things we’re going to announce.” A spokesperson for “Factor” could not be reached for comment at press time.

After some major hype from Cowell, “Factor” underperformed in its first season — putting up solid numbers, but not the gaudy ones Simon had predicted. As a result, he blew up the judging panel, keeping just music executive L.A. Reid by his side and canning host Steve Jones.

If Spears dos take the gig, which Deadline Hollywood reported could come with a $10 million payday, she will join her fellow Mickey Mouse Clubhouse mate Christina Aguilera in the hot seat of a major reality singing show. After a few rough professional and personal years, Aguilera has gone a long way toward reclaiming her A-list status thanks to the success of her performance on “The Voice.”

Cowell reportedly reached out personally to Spears to get the conversation rolling and he’s been talking her up lately, saying in that same conference call, “are we flattered there would be interest from Britney Spears? Yes.” In a later interview, he said he was “fascinated” with Spears and praised her resilience after a rough period during which she endured some very public personal struggles.

Jackson’s name was in the hopper until recently, when she revealed that, while flattered by the offer, the TV gig just would not jibe with the professional commitments
 already on her calendar this year.

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