A New York Times report published Sunday raises questions about whether Lou Taylor, the business manager long associated with Britney Spears’ recently concluded conservatorship, improperly enriched herself using the singer’s earnings. In the report, titled “Britney Spears Felt Trapped. Her Business Manager Benefited,” Taylor, her companies and Britney’s father and former conservator, Jamie Spears, deny any impropriety through attorneys.
The report notes that Taylor’s company, Tri Star Sports & Entertainment Group, was a small firm until she met Britney’s father, Jamie Spears, in 2008, striking an arrangement that would bring both millions. It states that the conservatorship, which lasted for an unusually long period of 13 years and netted Jamie Spears some $6 million, gave him “vast power over [Britney’s] life and finances.” It also notes that Tri Star has declined to reveal how much money it earned from the arrangement, but puts the figure at “millions” of dollars.
In recent years Britney has assailed the conservatorship, which began in 2008, saying that she had been coerced into working, and that much of the money she earned went to a constellation of attorneys, managers, agents and others due to a number of unusual financial arrangements.
“Near the center of it all was Ms. Taylor, according to a New York Times investigation based on court filings, financial records, company documents and interviews with more than 70 people familiar with the conservatorship, Ms. Taylor or her businesses,” the report states. Taylor stepped down as Britney’s business manager in November of last year; the conservatorship was ended last month.
The report notes:
* That Jamie Spears received a loan of “at least” $40,000 from Tri Star at the beginning of his relationship with the firm. While an attorney for Jamie Spears, Alex Weingarten, an attorney for Jamie Spears, initially told the Times that Jamie Spears “never” received a loan from Tri Star but later confirmed it. “Tri Star routinely loans money to clients,” he said.
* That accounts for the singer were opened at Stonebridge Wealth Management, a firm Taylor co-founded and co-owned, shortly after the conservatorship began. “While the firm said it did not receive fees for many services it provided, several other maneuvers appeared to benefit Ms. Taylor,” the report states. Those include Britney’s estate paying for a security company hired by her father to surveil “Free Britney” protesters who criticized Ms. Taylor and, one former employee alleges, surveil Britney herself; paying some of Taylor’s personal legal fees, leading Britney’s lawyer to complain to a California court;
* That in 2010 the conservatorship directed tens of thousands of dollars from Britney’s charitable foundation to a Christian counseling group with ties to Taylor and her husband, and whose founder once boasted that the group helped people abandon lesbianism. Jamie Spears “also at times donated 10 percent of [income derived from Britney] to a church run by the Taylors, according to a financial document reviewed by The Times.”
* That Spears’s estate paid for ads in trade publications praising Taylor and Tri Star, including in Variety.
Weingarten, a lawyer for Jamie Spears, said that “Jamie’s administration of Britney’s estate was always consistent with Britney’s best interests.” He said the court, a co-conservator and Britney’s court-appointed lawyer approved of Mr. Spears’s decisions. He added, “Jamie has nothing to hide and will therefore hide nothing.”
Charles Harder, a lawyer for Taylor, said Tri Star “faithfully served the estate” and helped Ms. Spears build an estimated $60 million fortune. “That is a success by any standard.”
Matthew G. White, a lawyer for Stonebridge, wrote in a recent letter to Britney’s legal team that it “worked diligently and tirelessly to provide valuable services to benefit the estate,” often for no fee.
The relationship began with Britney’s younger sister, also named Jamie, who was starring in Nickelodeon’s “Zoey 101” signed on as a Tri Star client in 2005; her father, who had struggled with alcoholism and filed for bankruptcy, became a Tri Star client shortly afterward, and the following year became Britney’s conservator. The report notes that Tri Star made a loan of “at least” $40,000 to Jamie Spears less than a month before he had Britney placed into the conservatorship.
Speaking with the Times, Anthony Palmieri, the incoming president of the National Guardianship Association, which represents conservators, said the loan “makes me wonder where the allegiance lies. Is the conservator making decisions in the best interest of the conservatee or the business manager who they owe a debt to? It reeks of conflict of interest.” Harder countered, “A small loan, later repaid, had no affect on Tri Star’s work for the estate in later years.”
In 2008, just months after arguing that Britney was incapacitated and therefore needed to be under his control via the conservatorship, Jamie Spears booked her on an eight-month concert tour named “Circus.” Tri Star was hired to serve as the tour’s business manager, handling its finances and accounting. The tour grossed an estimated $130 million. The following year, the company was finalizing a contract to become the manager for Britney’s estate, which includes many of her assets, and gave it a large measure of control over the management of her finances. Tri Star would receive 5 percent of Ms. Spears’s “adjusted gross entertainment revenue,” according to Harder, who declined to explain further.
The report states that it is unclear whether Britney knew how her money was spent. Her attorneys are investigating whether Jamie Spears, Taylor and others unfairly profited from the conservatorship.
Read the full report here.