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Spice Girls' ex-manager really really wants pounds 20m

What the Spice Girls really, really wanted, it turns out, was to get rid of their Svengali, and shape the future of the band. What Simon Fuller really, really wants in return is about pounds 20m.

The girls, some of whom had declared themselves to be admirers of Margaret Thatcher, are said to have showed some of her ruthlessness in plotting the coup against Mr Fuller, the man credited with manufacturing the band and turning them into multi-millionaires.

Now Mr Fuller, who is recouperating in Rome from back surgery, is consulting m'learned friends, and his solicitor Gerard Tyrell appears to be confident a suitable compensation package can be worked out. He said: "An announcement will be made but I don't know when. I can't say anything else at the moment. It is all in the melting pot.

"Simon's reaction is what you would expect, one of shock. It all happened very quickly. The girls decided to do it, and they did."

The girls were also moving fast in organising their future. They are reported to have approached First Avenue Management whose clients include singers Louise, Dina Carroll and Michelle Gayle.

The split is said to have been sparked by a highly combustible cocktail of sex, money and ambition. Mr Fuller is said to have become close to Emma Bunton, "Baby Spice", who took a holiday with him in St Tropez in August. This is believed to have displeased the rest of the group, particularly "Ginger Spice" (Geri Halliwell) and "Scary Spice" (Mel Brown).

Sex, or the absence of it, due to the band's workload and the possibility of a life abroad as tax exiles, was also a topic raised with Mr Fuller by the girls. It is said that "Posh Spice" Victoria Adams feared that living abroad would lead to her being ditched by Manchester United footballer David Beckham, Scary Spice feared her Icelandic lover Fjolnir Thorgeirsson would ditch her if they were forced to live apart for six months, and Ginger Spice recently complained that the band's busy schedule has meant she has not had sex for a year.

Then there is money and ambition. Since the release of their first single, Wannabe, in July l996, the group has made an estimated pounds 30m. But the latest figures show their popularity may now be dissipating. The first-day sales of their new album was a comparatively modest 55,000, while in the USA Spice Up Your Life is only no 27 in the charts.