Lawyer: Bessemer's exit from Britney Spears conservatorship a 'pressure cooker situation'
Britney Spears' highly public battle to end her 13-year, court-ordered conservatorship took a dramatic new twist this week, and leaves her estimated $60 million fortune in an even more precarious situation.
Late Thursday, Bessemer Trust requested to withdraw as co-conservator of the pop star's estate. In a court filing obtained by Yahoo Finance, the wealth management company filed the petition due to “changed circumstances” surrounding the case after Spears' explosive testimony on June 23.
"The Conservatee claimed irreparable harm to her interests in her testimony and, more specifically, the Conservatee's objection to the continuation of the voluntary Conservatorship and her desire to terminate the Conservatorship," the filing read.
"Petitioner has heard the Conservatee and respects her wishes," it continued. Bessemer also revealed that it "has taken no actions as Conservator, has made no decisions as Conservator" and has received no fees or assets of the estate.
If the petition is granted, Jamie Spears will be in full control as a sole standing conservator of the estate, and it's not entirely clear if an alternate will be appointed at this time. In order for that to happen, Britney Spears and her legal team would have to file a secondary petition, a lawyer explained.
"All of these filings are accelerating the ultimate question of whether or not this conservatorship should continue," Benny Roshan, an L.A.-based attorney who serves as chair of Greenberg Glusker's trusts and probate litigation group, told Yahoo Finance.
"What’s significant about Bessemer stepping away is the larger question of whether or not another management company would step in and act as co-conservator in light of Britney’s statement to the court," she continued.
'Pressure cooker situation'
During a virtual hearing on June 23 which Spears demanded be public, the 39-year-old pop icon spoke publicly for the first time in 2 years. By her own account, she's been "traumatized" by the "abusive" legal arrangement that grants her father, Jamie Spears, broad authority over her personal and financial affairs.
Yet the pop star suffered yet another setback this week after the presiding judge refused her request to eject her father as a conservator.
"Britney set in motion all of these events with her own statement [and] the situation is coming to a head," Roshan noted, explaining that Bessemer's withdrawal request has now created a "pressure cooker situation."
According to the attorney, Britney's legal team will likely need to file a formal petition — whether it be for another co-conservator or an end to the conservatorship altogether — ahead of the next scheduled court hearing on July 14.
The singer’s highly public 2007 breakdown led to her father becoming co-conservator of her estate in 2008, along with attorney Andrew Wallet. But Wallet resigned from his role in 2019, leaving Jamie Spears in full control of the arrangement, until a judge appointed Bessemer Trust as co-conservator in November 2020.
In California, a conservatorship (also known as a guardianship in some states) is described as a legal relationship between a “responsible adult or organization” and a person whose ability to make decisions has been “impaired” for some reason.
Fans argue that Britney has not been impaired since her 2007 breakdown. In fact, many claim she’s flourished. Yet legal experts say the unusual circumstances of the case, and the lack of precedent, is creating legal and public relations chaos.
Her father's legal team has argued that the pop star climbed out of debt under his guidance. Meanwhile, the singer’s legal team has insisted that she's “afraid” of her father and “will not perform again if her father is in charge of her career.”
"Performing arts is her profession, so if she's not going to generate any income, then that is something that impacts her earning ability," Greenberg Glusker's Roshan said.
The attorney equated her performance refusal to a "peaceful protest" — but with bigger implications.
"How many different ways can a person start jumping up and down about what it is that they don't want before somebody listens?" Roshan continued.
However, the attorney cautioned that Britney's threat may not hold up in court given the singer's previous statements that she was "forced" to perform under the terms of the arrangement.
Britney, by the numbers
The “Toxic” singer dropped her comeback album “Circus” in 2008, followed by several other records, multiple tours, a four-year Las Vegas residency which grossed an impressive $137.7 million, a successful perfume line, lingerie business and more.
Forbes estimates that the pop star's net worth sits at approximately $60 million, with $56.5 million of that sum resting in business accounts and investment properties. According to the publication, her gross income is divided among a mix of agents, managers, lawyers, state and local taxes, and then her personal expenses.
Each year, Spears pays about $500,000 in child support to ex-husband Kevin Federline, plus millions in legal support and fees related to her conservatorship, Forbes said.
Other public financial records revealed that Spears loves to shop on household supplies — regularly visiting Target, Home Depot, Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond and more — and travels frequently. The singer was recently spotted in exotic locations like Hawaii, Miami, and Turks and Caicos.
Currently, Jamie Spears collects a monthly salary of $16,000 from his daughter’s estate, $2,000 a month for office space and a percentage of her business deals, Forbes said.
Alexandra is a Producer & Entertainment Correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193
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