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1998: Ginger leaves the Spice Girls

Geri Halliwell, aka Ginger Spice, has left the chart-topping Spice Girls band.

The announcement follows days of increasingly feverish speculation, after Geri - the driving force behind the band - missed the BBC's National Lottery Show on Wednesday, and two concerts in Norway.

Earlier today, the group said a statement would be made at the offices of their solicitors in central London at 1400 BST.

"The Spice Girls are here to stay ... Friendship never ends"

The Spice Girls minus Ginger

About 30 journalists gathered outside the offices of Lee & Thompson and tension mounted as the deadline passed.

Almost half an hour later and after several false alarms Ms Halliwell's solicitor, Julian Turton, and Alan Edwards, the spokesman for the remaining four members of the band, finally emerged.

Mr Turton read out a statement which he said was written by Geri.

"Sadly I would like to confirm that I have left the Spice Girls. This is because of differences between us. I'm sure the group will continue to be successful and I wish them all the best... PS, I'll be back."

This was followed by the announcement on behalf of the remaining four members of the group, which said they were "upset and saddened" but would carry on and fulfil their commitments including the forthcoming American tour.

The group are due to play 40 dates in the United States, beginning in nine days' time, followed by a charity concert in Rome and four dates in Britain.

It said they were supportive of Geri in whatever she wanted to do, but added, "The Spice Girls are here to stay ... Friendship never ends".

It remains to be seen whether this is the beginning of the end of Britain's most successful band since the Beatles, or whether they can shrug off their differences and move on to greater things.

In Context
Although not known for being the most talented of the five, Geri Halliwell had helped give the group its identity as the leaders of Girl Power.

She said differences with her fellow members had forced her to quit, but it was widely reported there had been a power struggle between herself and Melanie Brown.

Geri travelled the world as a UN goodwill ambassador, went on to have a successful solo career and her autobiography, If Only, published in 1999 was a best-seller.

The singer has consistently remained in the public eye with her image changes, TV documentaries and relationships regularly featuring in the tabloid newspapers.

The Spice Girls continued to perform as a foursome but by the end of 2001 fizzled out as a band to concentrate on solo careers.

Geri produced a third solo album in 2005.

In May 2006 she gave birth to a daughter, Bluebell Madonna.

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