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Label boss says Britney’s friend Lutfi was more gofer than manager

By | Published on Wednesday 24 October 2012

Britney Spears

Sam Lutfi, the former close friend of Britney Spears who claimed to be her manager during the popstar’s very public breakdown five years ago, has told an LA court how he first met the singer.

As previously reported, Lutfi is suing the Spears family claiming that he is due 15% of her earnings from that time as a result of his alleged management role. He also accuses Spears’ mother of defamation over allegations that Lutfi contributed to Britney’s mental breakdown, and her father of assault in relation to an altercation in 2008. Spears Senior, of course, subsequently took control of his daughter’s financial affairs after Britney was sectioned.

According to Reuters, Lutfi told the court this week that he first met Spears in a nightclub in spring 2007. She asked if she could have his hat. Self-conscious about his balding head, he refused, and, Lutfi says: “She told me she doesn’t get told ‘no’ often, so it was refreshing to get told no for once. We talked for a while and hit it off”.

Lutfi and Spears exchanged contact details and subsequently became close friends, with Lutfi moving into Spears’s home. He said that the singer quickly began discussing her personal problems with him, including the fallout of her divorce from Kevin Federline and her drug problems.

The latter, he alleged, caused that incident when the singer shaved off her trademark long blonde hair and appeared on front pages the world over totally bald. Someone had told Spears, Lutfi claimed, that scientific analysis of hair could reveal drug use, and she was terrified that such analysis could be used against her in the custody battle with Federline over their children.

While many have accused Lutfi of manipulating his newfound friendship with Spears in 2007 for personal gain, cutting off other friends and family members, and in turn contributing to her mental breakdown, he argues that he cared for the singer, and did all he could to guide her through a difficult patch. In particular, he says, he tried to control the aggressive paparazzi who were stalking the pop star at the time. He told the court: “She was dealing with a lot of anxiety, with the way they followed her everywhere”.

Core to the main strand of Lutfi’s legal action, though, isn’t whether or not he cared for the singer, but whether he acted as her manager in 2007 and 2008, and is therefore due 15% of the monies she earned during that time. As previously reported, legal reps for Spears say that while Lutfi did eventually claim to be the singer’s manager, he was never formally appointed as such, had no previous experience in artist management, and is basing his claim on a template contract downloaded off the internet. Meanwhile the monies Spears earned of which Lutfi now wants share stemmed from deals negotiated before his involvement in the pop star’s affairs.

Supporting the Spears family’s case in this regard, Universal Music exec Barry Weiss, who previously headed up Spears’ label Jive Records, told the court on Monday that Lutfi never introduced himself to the record company as Britney’s manager, and never conducted any business dealings with the then SonyBMG subsidiary on her behalf, even though the label was marketing the singer’s fifth album ‘Blackout’ during this time.

Describing how he had previously worked very closely with Larry Rudolph, Britney’s original and current manager, who was cut out of the singer’s career during most of this period, he said he had no such dealings with Lutfi, and dealt mainly with Spears directly on issues that would normally be handled by management. According to the Associated Press, Weiss told the court: “Sam Lutfi never introduced himself or came in for a meeting. He never discussed records or a record contract, there was no manager involved [at this point]”.

Weiss, who also confirmed how troubled Britney was in this period, especially once she became estranged from her family, said that Lutfi had helped on a video shoot, and had played a role in persuading Spears to stay on the set, but that if the claimant had a formal role in Britney’s life at that time, it was more as a personal assistant than a manager. Or a “gofer” in the label exec’s words.

The case continues.