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SMAP breakup became unavoidable despite multiple talks with agency president

(Sponichi) -- The split of the five-man pop unit SMAP, scheduled for Dec. 31 this year, became inevitable following a series of talks between the members and their agency president Johnny Kitagawa since June this year over the group's appearance on special music programs.

The 84-year-old president of Johnny & Associates held meetings with all five members together twice and talks with individual members twice, in addition to discussions over the phone. Despite Kitagawa's repeated requests for reconsideration over the breakup, four members, apart from Takuya Kimura, 43, would not be persuaded.

According to a source related to the agency, Shingo Katori, 39, looked especially exhausted over the matter. The source said, "Katori looked like he has brought out his best (for the group) and didn't have any complaints to other members. I understood him as saying that the five of them together cannot perform better than they have before."

At the same time, the source also said, "I would be lying if I said the turmoil brought by the news about their breakup (reported in January this year) didn't affect the split," admitting that the conflict among the members that arose when their possible breakup surfaced has not been resolved.

Following the multiple meetings between the group members and the president, the agency judged that SMAP would not be able to resume its activities as a group for the time being and it was decided earlier this month that the group would take a break until things surrounding the situation take a positive turn.

On Aug. 10, however, four of the members, not including Kimura, visited Kitagawa, and Katori, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, 42 and Goro Inagaki, 42, told him that they wanted to split up permanently rather than taking a break. An agency source said group leader Masahiro Nakai, 43, suggested that he wanted to keep the group as it is if possible. It was decided on the following day after the agency's board meeting that the group will split on Dec. 31.

A source says the members didn't want to leave their fans in hope when there is no chance of the group resuming its activities.

All five members are to stay with Johnny & Associates as they have wished. Their one-year contracts will automatically renew in September, the month SMAP debuted in 1991, and they will each pursue solo careers.

There were growing expectations that SMAP would perform at NHK's Kohaku Uta Gassen annual music show on Dec. 31 as their last public appearance as a group, but a source with a TV station says, "That's a 100 percent no."

It is speculated that the popular program "SMAPxSMAP" on Fuji Television Network, the only regular program the five members appear in together, is behind the timing for the split. The TV station source says it would be difficult to end the program in September, which is the month for the next broadcast scheduling, since the broadcaster has not prepared a new program as a replacement, adding, "The group owes a lot to the show (that has run for 20 years) and it was decided that the program will conclude at the end of the year when the production of programs for the next year takes place."

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