The popular boy band began what was dubbed an extended hiatus earlier this month. A source had told E! News last August the group members would "work on individual projects for a while" but "are not splitting up" and "plan to work together in the future." In a cover story interview with Billboard, published Wednesday, Cowell, who founded the group on The X Factor and signed them to his Syco record label, offered a somber update.
"I don't know if it's a hiatus or a breakup, to be honest," he said. "In a weird way, I don't want to know. I don't think they've had enough time to experience what it's like not being in the group to really answer that."
"Whenever I was with them, we talked about it, and I couldn't argue with them," Cowell said about their hiatus. "They had achieved so much in a short period of time, and I didn't want them to get jaded. As I've gotten older, I've learned to trust people more, particularly artists. They'll decide when they want to come back together."