Westlife shock fans with split announcement after 14 years together
CHART-topping act Westlife are to split "amicably" after 14 years and 26 top ten hits, they announced tonight.
The Irish group will bow out following a farewell tour next year and said they are looking forward to "new ventures".
Over the course of their career the group has achieved 14 number one hits.
In a statement the group said tonight: "Over the years Westlife has become so much more to us than just a band. Westlife are a family."
The group - for many years managed by Louis Walsh - survived the departure of one of its founding members Bryan McFadden, and continue seamlessly as a four-piece.
Singer Mark Feehily also won admiration for announcing he was gay when the boy band were at the peak of their success.
They produced hit after hit, with singles such as Swear It Again and Flying Without Wings among their number ones.
Many of their big hits over the years were cover versions and they capitalised on a swing revival by recording a Rat Pack-style album Allow Us To Be Frank.
Members Feehily, Kian Egan, Shane Filan and Nicky Byrne are due to release a greatest hits album shortly.
They said they had "countless memories that we will forever cherish" from their years together.
In a statement posted on their website, they said: "We today announce our plan to go our separate ways after a greatest hits collection this Christmas and a farewell tour next year.
"The decision is entirely amicable and after spending all of our adult life together so far, we want to have a well-earned break and look at new ventures.
"We see the greatest hits collection and the farewell tour as the perfect way to celebrate our incredible career along with our fans. We are really looking forward to getting out on the tour and seeing our fans one last time."
It continued: "Over the years Westlife has become so much more to us than just a band. Westlife are a family.
"We would like to thank our fans who have been with us on this amazing journey and are part of our family too.
"We never imagined when we started out in 1998 that 14 years later we would still be recording, touring and having hits together. It has been a dream come true for all of us."