London: Simon Cowell is holding secret talks with A-list stars in a desperate bid to save `The X Factor`, with dumped judge Cheryl Cole on top of his wish list.
Popstar Rita Ora and razor-tongued Sharon Osbourne are also in the frame for a permanent spot on the UK panel, the Daily Star reported.
According to reports, Cole, 29, is already in negotiations with producers about returning for a third season, with Simon now trying to sign the other stars on his wanted list.
Cole, who kicked off her Girls Aloud tour Ten on Thursday, recently filed a 1.6-million-pound lawsuit, following her dismissal from the US X Factor, despite only appearing in a couple of episodes. She claimed that she was promised two series.
But she made clear the row was never personal between her and the music mogul, opening the door for a comeback.
Her name has already been floated for a return to the US version of the show but our sources say a UK comeback cannot be ruled out.
Cole and Ora, 22, are not the only ones on Cowell`s judging wishlist for this year`s show.
Since axing Tulisa, 24, last week and with Gary Barlow, 42, already ruling himself out of the new -series, the 53-year-old has been doing some scouting to get the highest-profile judges after ratings dropped to an all-time low last year.
Mel B, 37, was a front-runner but the former Spice Girl has agreed a deal to be on the panel of `America`s Got Talent`.
That has paved the way for a dramatic return for Sharon Osbourne, 60. She quit `America`s Got Talent`, accusing the NBC network of dropping her son Jack from a reality show after he had revealed publicly he had multiple sclerosis.
Singer Pink, 33, is rumoured to be replacing Britney, 31. Louis Walsh, 60, and Nicole Scherzinger, 34, are set to return to our screens later this year while no replacement has yet been announced for Barlow.
"Simon is looking for a big name to replace Gary but as long as Cheryl is back on the panel he knows the show will be a massive hit," a source said.