Metallica regrets to announce that after 14 years as Metallica's bass player, Jason Newsted has chosen to leave the band. Jason Newsted: "Due to private and personal reasons, and the physical damage that I have done to myself over the years while playing the music that I love, I must step away from the band. This is the most difficult decision of my life, made in the best interest of my family, myself, and the continued growth of Metallica. I extend my love, thanks, and best wishes to my brothers: James, Lars, and Kirk and the rest of the Metallica family, friends, and fans whom have made these years so unforgettable." Newsted joined Metallica from Flotsam And Jetsam in the fall of 1986 after the tragic death of bassist Cliff Burton. He participated in the recording of 6 Metallica albums (...And Justice for All, Metallica, Load, Re-Load, Garage Inc., and S&M) which have sold over 55 million copies worldwide to date. In addition, he played on numerous worldwide tours to millions of fans representing over 1000 gigs in all. While with Metallica, the band won countless awards including 5 Grammy Awards and 2 MTV Video Music Awards. James Hetfield: "Playing with someone who has such unbridled passion for music will forever be a huge inspiration. On stage every night, he was a driving force to us all, fans and band alike. His connection will never be broken." Lars Ulrich: "We part ways with Jason with more love, more mutual respect, and more understanding of each other than at any other point in the past. James, Kirk and I look forward to embracing the next chapter of Metallica with both a huge amount of appreciation for the last 14 years with Jason and the excitement of rising to the challenges that lay ahead to make Metallica shine brighter than ever." In the spring, Metallica will begin writing and recording a new studio album with release sometime in late 2001 or early 2002. Kirk Hammett: "Jason is our brother. He will be missed."