A top recording executive testified Monday that he was Britney Spears' "lifeline" during the darkest days of her well-documented meltdown and never heard that she had a new manager named Sam Lutfi.
Barry Weiss, who headed Jive Records, the label on which Spears recorded, said his only contact from Lutfi in 2007-08 was when Weiss asked him for assurance that Spears would be on set to record a music video for her "Blackout" album.
"Britney was pretty erratic at the time," Weiss testified during trial in a defamation lawsuit brought by Lutfi against Spears' parents.
U.S. & World
Stories that affect your life across the U.S. and around the world.
Lutfi claims he was Spears' personal manager and deserves millions as his share of her income during that period.
The defamation suit stems from the way Lutfi is depicted in a book written by Spears' mother that detailed the star's meltdown.
The trial took an early recess Monday and will resume Tuesday.
Conservators of Spears' estate, including her father, Jamie, who was in court, contend that Lutfi was never her manager but was simply a user who inserted himself into Spears' life and preyed on her vulnerabilities.
Weiss told of working closely with her former personal manager, Larry Rudolph, but said he was never told Lutfi had assumed the role.
"Sam Lutfi never introduced himself or came in for a meeting. He never discussed records or a record contract," Weiss said.
"He helped us get a video made," Weiss acknowledged. "He was trying to keep Britney on the set."
But in the end, Weiss said he saw Lutfi's role as a "gofer ... like a personal assistant."
Weiss said the singer would discuss with him the album's packaging, choice of a single record and creative matters normally discussed with a manager.
"There was no manager involved," Weiss said. "She was estranged from her family. I felt I was a lifeline for her. She was texting me constantly from her cellphone."
Weiss said that he had known Spears since she was 16 when he signed her for a contract with Jive Records.
"She's a superstar, a household name in every country in the world," Weiss said.
On cross-examination by Lutfi's attorney, Weiss said Spears' current contract requires one more album. Weiss said he has been in talks to persuade Spears to join him at his new label.
"It would be nice to be back together, if that happened," he said.