randy jackson

*After 13 seasons with “American Idol,” either as a judge or a mentor, Randy Jackson is finally leaving the sinking ship for good.

In a statement Tuesday, the network and producers call Jackson a key part of the singing contest and say he’ll be welcomed back as a visitor.

Jackson, Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul made up “Idol’s” original judging panel. The show set the standard for musical competition shows and has churned out such multi-award winning superstars as Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson and Carrie Underwood. But ratings for the show has since dwindled as its rival, NBC’s “The Voice,” now appears to have the nation’s attention.

Jackson served as a judge for 12 seasons before moving to the role of mentor this year. His departure leaves host Ryan Seacrest as the only original cast member.

“American Idol” is set to return in January with judges Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban.