Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt Separate

The couple tells PEOPLE: "We happily remain committed and caring friends"

Hollywood power couple Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt have decided to separate, PEOPLE magazine reports exclusively.

“We would like to announce that after seven years together we have decided to formally separate. For those who follow these sorts of things, we would like to explain that our separation is not the result of any of the speculation reported by the tabloid media. This decision is the result of much thoughtful consideration,” Pitt and Aniston said in a joint statement to PEOPLE magazine. “We happily remain committed and caring friends with great love and admiration for one another. We ask in advance for your kindness and sensitivity in the coming months.”

Aniston’s rep Stephen Huvane and Pitt’s rep Cindy Guagenti declined further comment.

Pitt, 41, met Aniston, 35, when they were set up on a dinner date in 1998. The pair kept their relationship under wraps for months, and eventually wed in a lavish ceremony in Malibu, Calif., on July 29, 2000. The wedding featured some 200 guests, 50,000 flowers, four bands, a gospel choir and fireworks. “Jennifer looked beautiful,” her father, Days of Our Lives actor John Aniston, 71, told PEOPLE after escorting his daughter down the aisle. “It was a spectacular wedding.”

In 2002, Aniston told PEOPLE that she and Pitt were looking forward to starting a family: “Absolutely it will happen but probably not for a while. Probably Friends will end, close that chapter, and see where we go.”

Recently, Aniston – who has been busy with movie projects – was photographed not wearing her diamond-studded wedding ring, and tabloid reports spoke of marital trouble. Yet the couple spent New Year’s weekend vacationing on the Caribbean island of Anguilla with former Friends costar Courteney Cox and husband David Arquette.

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