They believe he would bolster ratings, which have slumped since Cowell said he was quitting after the current ninth season.
Sir Elton, 63, rejected overtures from Fox TV when it offered him the job in January. Last week, however, he met executives again while in New York for the Time magazine 100 gala in honour of the most influential people of the year. They are believed to have offered him more than the £22million a season they pay Cowell.
Idol bosses have been longing to lure Sir Elton back since he rounded on Cowell and the other judges for booting off eventual Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson.
Executives were exultant over the ratings-boosting uproar. One of the show’s 20 producers said: “Everyone loves Sir Elton. As well as being outspoken, he has an air of gravitas as an icon of the music industry.
“He’s British too. Having Sir Elton on board would be a guaranteed ratings blockbuster all over the world.”
The show’s audience has fallen since Cowell said he was quitting to launch a US X Factor.
Sir Elton is still a crowd pleaser. Fans loved his haunting performance of Your Song on the annual Idol Gives Back charity fundraiser, which helped to raise millions for Feeding America, Malaria No More, the Children’s Health Fund and United Nations Foundation.
Another senior Idol insider said: “Part of the pitch to get Sir Elton on board was that the show can become an even bigger fundraiser for various charities. We’re barely more than a cat’s whisker away from getting ink on paper.”