Although there is no concrete date on the breakup or when the members are leaving the company nor any official statement from the members themselves, the legal advisor of Johnny's Jimusho confirmed the news that SMAP's chief manager has resigned as a director of Johnny's Jimusho affiliate company "J Dream" which is managing SMAP. She is said to be leaving the company soon.
According to reports, discussions over the group's future lasted more than half a year and the decision was only made towards the end of last year. Despite the fact that the backing of their agency was a huge factor in SMAP's success, the chief manager who had been working with the group all this while was credited for "raising" the group to its status today especially since they did not do very well initially in their music careers. With the development of each member in their niche fields, SMAP slowly moved up the ranks to become a national idol group. In order to follow their manager, the four members are said to have decided to leave with her while Kimura who feels grateful to the president Johnny Kitagawa for choosing them to form the group, decided to stay behind after deliberating on the issue for a long time.
The first sign of internal conflict between the chief manager and the agency's management was hinted at early last year when an executive was interviewed and she had hinted that there was no room for infighting within the company and that there was a possibility that SMAP's chief manager may leave. In addition, despite the fact that this year is SMAP's 25th CD debut anniversary, there were no plans announced for a commemorative CD release or national concert tour which seemed to suggest that this was due to this issue.
SMAP was formed in 1988 comprising of six members including Mori Katsuyuki who left the group in 1996 to become a racer. The group released their first single in September 1991 and had two million-seller singles i.e. 1998's "Yozora no Mukou" and 2000's "Lion Heart". Their bestselling single was "Sekai ni Hitotsu dake no Hana" in 2003 which sold more than 2.5 million copies.
With the news of SMAP's impending breakup, the impact is far-reaching as the group's activities stretch across various fields. For example, their signature variety programme "SMAPxSMAP" on FujiTV which started in 1996, is set to celebrate its 20th anniversary this year. If the group indeed breaks up, the programme is likely to end its run. In terms of individual variety programmes, Nakai has 5 under his belt while Katori has 3, Kusanagi 2 and Inagaki 1. Nakai is more active in the TV variety scene while the rest of his members are more into acting. Kimura is in the midst of filming Miike Takashi's "Mugen no Junin" which is to be shown next year, Kusanagi and Katori both have dramas beginning this season i.e. "Specialist" and "Kazoku no Katachi" while Inagaki is due to begin his stage play "Koi to Ongaku FINAL ~ Jikan Gekijou no Kiseki~" from 6 February.
According to their official website, SMAP has two group CM deals with Seven & I Holdings and Universal Studios Japan which means that they will be affected if the group ceases to be. As for individual CM deals, Katori has 5, Kimura 4, Nakai and Kusanagi both have 3 each while Inagaki has 1. The group is also the supporter for the Paralympic Support Centre and tasked to promote awareness for the organisation.
Source: Nikkansports 1 / Nikkansports 2 / Nikkansports 3