Liam Payne recently announced that he is leaving One Direction in pursuit of a career as a solo artist. Last week he tweeted that he would be working with Capital U.K., which shocked Syco Music label owner Simon Cowell.

The “America’s Got Talent” judge apparently offered Payne, 22, a deal with Syco, but the Wolverhampton, England, native decided to pass. During a taping of the popular televised talent competition, Cowell told Entertainment Tonight he was “slightly surprised.” Still, it does not seem there is any bad blood between the musician and producer.

“I was slightly surprised to read that Liam signed to another label,” he told ET. “I wasn’t expecting it. But you know, that happens.”

Cowell previously discussed One Direction during a conference call. He told reporters that he and the rest of the “X-Factor” judges — who have been credited with discovering One Direction in 2010 — remain in close contact with many members of the band. Cowell praised the young musicians for their loyalty, but seemingly forgot to name Payne and fellow One Direction defector Zayn Malik. Many presume it was a dig, but it is possible Cowell did not name them because of their respective decisions to go solo.

“We are in touch with them all. The great thing about these boys — well, not all of them, but most of them — they are incredibly loyal and you don’t always expect that,” he said (via Teen Vogue). “Niall, Harry, Louis...amazing.”

Cowell was previously asked to discuss Malik’s exit from the band during an April 2015 appearance on “The Late Late Show With James Corden.” He told the host that Malik “wasn’t happy” in the group anymore, adding that he had urged him to stay for just a short while longer. Cowell explained that Malik simply couldn’t ride it out and that was just something he and fans of the boy band had to come to grips with. The “X-Factor” judge went on to say that while he didn’t agree with the “Pillowtalk” singer’s decision, he respected it and fans should do the same. At the time, Cowell had faith that One Direction could continue to thrive with the remaining four members. It appears, however, he was wrong.

Payne announced his exit on July 21, just one month after Harry Styles officially went solo. Payne’s label is a rival of Cowell’s, which may also play into his loyalty comments.

Simon Cowell Simon Cowell, photographed during the “American Idol” grand finale in Hollywood, California, on April 7, 2016, says he was surprised to learn that Liam Payne (not photographed) was not signing with his label after leaving One Direction. Photo: Reuters