Sexy singer Rachel Stevens has vehemently defended her controversial manager Simon Fuller from accusations he "ripped off" her former band S CLUB.

It was reported that while the seven members of the pop band - who split earlier this year (03) - only earned $885,000 (GBP590,000) from their four year stint in S Club, Fuller, the brains behind the Spice Girls and Pop Idol, made a staggering $75 million (GBP50 million).

However, Stevens, who has now launched a solo career with Fuller's help, denies she and her ex-bandmates were merely pop puppets.

Rachel, 25, says, "Just because you're in a manufactured band, it doesn't mean that you haven't got talent, you haven't got drive and ambition.

"There has been a lot of rubbish and speculation about Simon Fuller ripping us off. I'm quite offended by that. I'm not stupid. I wouldn't still be with him now if it was true, would I?

"S Club were a totally manufactured band. I feel very comfortable with what I've earned. I'm a wealthy young woman. I haven't got millions in the bank, but I'm doing what I love, and I can now help my family and treat my mum.

"People who don't know Simon think of him as some kind of ogre, but he's a gentle fun guy with a brilliant mind."

01/12/2003 21:15