Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced Friday that he and his wife of 20 years were separating, and a spokesman said the family would be physically splitting up next week.
"Each of us loves our children more than anything in the world, and we are committed to working together for their benefit," Villaraigosa said in a statement. "I ask that the media and the public respect our privacy through this painful period of transition."
A spokesman would not elaborate on reasons behind the split, but the mayor and his wife, Corina, 49, a longtime teacher in the Montebello Unified School District, have struggled to keep their marriage together as he works long hours away from home.
The 54-year-old mayor did not schedule any public appearances this weekend but was expected to discuss the breakup with reporters Monday.
Next week, Villaraigosa will move out of Getty House, the mayor's official residence in Windsor Square, and live during a transition period in his former hilltop home in Mount Washington, the spokesman said.
Villaraigosa's wife and their two teenage children will remain at Getty House initially during the separation.
The couple were married in 1987 and combined their surnames -- he was known at the time as Antonio Villar and she was Corina Raigosa -- into a single name.
They have weathered difficult periods since then, including a lengthy separation more than a decade ago after it was revealed that he had an affair.
Villaraigosa isn't the only city chief executive to face marital woes. His predecessor, James K. Hahn, separated from his wife, Monica, after 20 years of marriage in 2003, also two years into his first term.
Corina is her husband's mirror opposite -- shy, reserved, inclined to avoid the spotlight he so relishes. Although he has embraced his public image amid elections to the state Assembly and City Council, she has remained largely in the background with their children, 18-year-old Antonio Jr. and 14-year-old Natalia Fe. A picture of the couple with their son appears on the mayor's official website.
Villaraigosa also has two adult daughters from previous relationships.
Friday's announcement capped months of speculation about the shaky status of their marriage.
In February, Villaraigosa adamantly denied reports on a local blog that he and his wife had separated.
The rumors apparently were fed by the fact that Villaraigosa had stopped wearing his wedding ring.
The mayor's aides said at the time that he had removed the band because he had lost weight and it was slipping off.
Soon after, he began wearing it again.
Villaraigosa declined at the time to discuss his marriage at length. But he acknowledged that he and Corina had weathered some difficult times, saying that "in a 20-year marriage, there are many ups and downs." And he added that his hectic job -- he regularly works 15-hour days and often travels out of town on city business -- had added to the strain.
News of the latest separation came as little surprise to some who know the Villaraigosas. His wife rarely joined him at public appearances and remained home with their children during his travels abroad. But many who know the couple voiced sadness at the news.
"I think the mayor acknowledged that there were issues they were trying to work through," said City Councilman Jack Weiss, one of Villaraigosa's closest allies at City Hall.
"There is one thing that any family would want in any situation like this: It's privacy," Weiss added. "I hope Los Angeles gives them privacy."
Villaraigosa's private life has provided a steady stream of gossip in recent months within City Hall's sometimes vicious rumor mill.
One rumor -- fed by elected leaders, aides and others in civic circles -- suggested that Villaraigosa and his wife were living in separate rooms inside Getty House. Another had his wife living back in the couple's Mount Washington home.
On Friday, the mayor and those who are close to him would not address the gossip but instead were thinking about how to protect the couple's children from the emotional turbulence of the breakup.
"The idea is for the separation to be minimally disruptive for the kids until they make more permanent arrangements," one of the mayor's aides said.