'Newlyweds' Nick and Jessica split

Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey, who turned mid-level music careers into Hollywood superstardom by celebrating their marriage in an MTV reality show and television specials, are calling it quits after months of persistent break-up rumours.

Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey, who turned mid-level music careers into Hollywood superstardom by celebrating their marriage in an MTV reality show and television specials, are calling it quits after months of persistent break-up rumours.

“After three years of marriage, and careful thought and consideration, we have decided to part ways,” they said in a joint statement released by their publicists.

“This is the mutual decision of two people with an enormous amount of respect and admiration for each other.”

The couple have been dogged by rumours that their marriage was in trouble, but Simpson, 25, and Lachey, 32, brushed the speculation aside and insisted they were still together.

In the December-January issue of Teen People, Simpson denied rumours the marriage was kaput.

“Hopefully mine and Nick’s story will continue for the rest of our lives, like what we vowed, through sickness and in health,” said Simpson, who famously professed that she remained a virgin until she got married.

The couple married in October 2002, back when they were known simply as pop singers. But Simpson hadn’t achieved the multiplatinum successes of peers Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, while Lachy was a member of the boy band 98 Degrees, which sold far fewer albums than such acts as ’N Sync and Backstreet Boys.

The couple’s reality show, ’Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica, which chronicled their daily lives in a new California home, turned them into stars. The show, which ran for three seasons, made Simpson infamous for her dippy-blonde moments, including the time she confused the tuna she was eating for chicken, or when she eschewed Buffalo wings because “I don’t eat buffalo”.

Simpson’s star status has begun to outshine Lachey’s. She played Daisy Duke in this summer’s hit movie The Dukes of Hazzard. Lachey, whose solo album has had disappointing sales, appeared in some episodes of the sitcom Charmed.

Besides appearing in Newlyweds, the couple entertained US troops earlier this year in the ABC special Nick & Jessica’s Tour of Duty, and last year they hosted the ABC variety special Nick & Jessica’s Family Christmas.

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