That sent celebrity magazines hurtling into a race to be first in the biggest breakup story of, well, the year.
"It's the biggest story since Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck broke up," Us Weekly Editor in Chief Janice Min said Tuesday.
Us Weekly, which typically closes its issue by midnight Monday, went into overdrive after Friday's announcement, which stated "our separation is not the result of any of the speculation reported by the tabloid media."
Min said her staff "came in all weekend" and moved up production by 24 hours.
The situation was similar at People, which usually doesn't close its edition until Tuesday.
"We launched all boats to figure out what went wrong," said People Deputy Managing Editor Larry Hackett. "It's a mix of a number of things: issues about when to start a family, how she was feeling about her husband ... I think, like most adults, it wasn't one thing or another."
Both magazines hit newsstands Tuesday. Using cultivated sources, the glossies crafted multidimensional stories exploring details about the breakup including Aniston and Pitt's recent Caribbean vacation itinerary, their family values and their division of assets.
The official separation announcement from Aniston and Pitt's publicist was first reported by People's Web site and later picked up by other news organizations and local tabloids, such as the New York Post and New York Daily News.
But unlike news organizations that have prepared obituaries for when somebody dies, Min said, "We don't have relationship obituaries ready to go."
Us devoted 31 pages to Aniston and Pitt; People 12. Both magazines had sidebars titled "The Angelina Factor," citing rumors that Pitt may have had an extramarital affair with "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" co-star Angelina Jolie.
Said People's Hackett: "We treat this stuff as if we're reporting on arms negotiation treaties or sports or politics. That's the way we tell a story."
Not every celebrity-driven magazine jumped on the Brad-and-Jen quick-to-print breakup bandwagon. Tabloid-turned-glossy Star magazine's current issue proclaims, "Brad and Jen Back On! IT'S BABY TIME."
Bonnie Fuller, editorial director of Star parent company American Media, said her company decided to spend their energy on more reporting instead of going to press early. But she insists Star was the first to report on the shattered relationship last month in the Dec. 13 "MARRIAGE CRISIS!" cover story and the Dec. 20 follow-up "Brad & Jen's SEPARATE LIVES!"
"What we believe happened is that they took this vacation, encouraged by their close friends Courteney Cox and David Arquette, to try and really put it back together, to try for the miracle reconciliation," Fuller said. "Then something happened. We believe they had a final fight and realized they were too far apart."
Fuller revealed Star's next chapter in the breakup saga is a cover story titled "Brad & Angelina: THE REAL TRUTH."
Both Hackett and Min foresee continued coverage of the dissolved couple in their respective publications.
"You can tell when something's played out," said Min. "Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony was much less interesting. We responded by dialing back on the coverage, but the interest in Brad and Jen is going to stay pretty hot for a while. They're the most beloved people in Hollywood."
"I think there's still a great deal of affection," Hackett said. "There's going to be a continued fascination with this couple as they become individuals."