Multi-platinum U.K. pop quintet Steps has split. Rumors about group members' eventual plans to go solo were commonplace in the British pop world, but the announcement yesterday (Dec. 26) that they had

Multi-platinum U.K. pop quintet Steps has split. Rumors about group members' eventual plans to go solo were commonplace in the British pop world, but the announcement yesterday (Dec. 26) that they had amicably decided to pursue individual careers was nonetheless unexpected.

Steps enjoyed four years of unbroken success with global album sales of 12 million, according to its label, Jive, amassing 13 consecutive U.K. top-5 singles, more than any other group apart from the Beatles and ABBA. The group, formed by the five successful applicants to an advertisement in trade publication The Stage, first charted in November 1997 with the line dancing-themed single "5,6,7,8." Steps went on to score two British No. 1s, first with the double-sided "Heartbeat" and a cover of the Bee Gees' "Tragedy" in November 1998 (a single that sold 1.2 million copies in the U.K. alone) and then with "Stomp" in October 2000.

"We have always said that when the time came, we would leave as good friends and go out while we were on top," Faye, Claire, Lisa, H, and Lee said in a joint statement posted on Steps' official Web site, "and although we are very sad, that's what we have done." Steps also became one of the most successful live acts in recent British pop history, selling out 120 arena shows. The group last performed on Dec. 22 in Manchester, England. The show was broadcast throughout the U.K. on the U.K.'s Sky Box Office pay-per-view.

Steps picked up three prizes at the recent British Smash Hits Awards, including best live act and a prestigious Hall of Fame trophy. The group's current compilation "Gold -- The Greatest Hits" is certified quadruple platinum domestically for shipments of 1.2 million units.