Simon Cowell has paid tribute to "charismatic" Darius Campbell Danesh following his death aged 41.
The music mogul was wowed by the singer – who was found unresponsive in his apartment in Rochester, Minnesota, on August 11 - on 'Pop Idol' in 2001 and offered him a record deal after he finished third on the show, and Simon has now told how Darius was a "great person to be with".
He said in a statement: "I first saw Darius on television over 20 years ago and I got to know him really well.
"He was charismatic, funny and just a great person to be with.
"His passing, for someone so young, is an absolute tragedy and my heart goes out to his family and friends."
Darius turned down Simon's deal and signed on with U2 producer Steve Lillywhite instead.
Despite rejecting the chance to team up with the 'X Factor' boss, Darius later described Simon as a "friend".
He previously said: "I'm incredibly grateful for the experiences I've had and all the opportunities that it opened up and to be able to call Simon Cowell a friend and to be able to have dinner with him."
Will Young won 'Pop Idol' in 2001, with Gareth Gates finishing second.
Gareth has also paid tribute to the late star, admitting he has been left "heartbroken" over his pal's passing, and admitted Darius was like a "big brother" to him on the talent show.
He said in a statement: "I can’t quite believe the news of my dear friend Darius passing. I’m heartbroken.
"Darius took me under his wing during our time in 'Pop Idol', like a big brother; always looking out for me and for that I thank you my friend."
Zoe Birkett, who finished fourth on the show that year, also described the star as a "big brother".
She tweeted: "Still processing the new of Darius’s death,a big brother to all of us in popidol ,I’ll always remember his wonderful warm tall hugs and his words of wisdom.A huge part of my life and you were there during a time I needed you most and I’ll forever be grateful for you that night (sic)
Darius first shot to fame on talent show 'Popstars', and despite being one of the favourites to triumph he was voted off after performing an "alternative" version of Britney Spears' hit '... Baby One More Time'.
The star's family confirmed this week that he had sadly passed away.
They said in a statement: "It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Darius Campbell Danesh. Darius was found unresponsive in bed in his apartment room in Rochester, Minnesota, on August 11 and was pronounced dead in the afternoon by the local medical examiners' office.
"The local police department have confirmed that there were no signs of intent or suspicious circumstances. The cause of his sudden death is unknown at this stage while medical examinations continue.
"We ask that you kindly respect our wishes for privacy at this time whilst we come to terms with the tragic loss of our son and brother."