4 facts about Britney Spears’ new conservator as her dad finally loses his grip on her money
Britney Spears’ father Jamie has been suspended from her conservatorship and replaced with Hollywood accountant John Zabel – but who is he, and how did he get the role?
Up until Wednesday (29 September), Jamie Spears served as conservator of his daughter’s estate, giving him control of her finances. The singer had been pushing for some time to have him removed from the complex legal arrangement, which was put in place following a mental health crisis in 2008.
Britney Spears finally won that battle during a Los Angeles court hearing on Wednesday (29 September). Ultimately, judge Penny sided with Britney’s lawyer Mathew Rosengart. He had asked the court to remove Jamie Spears from his role within the conservatorship with immediate effect and to replace him with John Zabel.
Naturally, fans are wondering who exactly Zabel is – what will his role be, how long is he expected to serve as Britney’s conservator, and what’s his background?
1. Britney Spears’ new conservator John Zabel is a professional accountant.
John Zabel is a Hollywood accountant who owns a company called Media Finance Structures. His company bills itself as “your answer to almost any need in the financial or operational management of entertainment projects”.
Media Finance Structures has worked with major Hollywood studios such as Sony, Lionsgate and Paramount Pictures. On the company’s website, Zabel is described as “a nationally recognised CPA (certified public accountant)” who provides entertainment industry figures with “the quality and breadth of service previously not available to them on a project basis”.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Zabel has a long and storied career as an entertainment industry accountant. He worked at Sony Pictures Entertainment for almost 11 years between 1984 and 1995, and he studied briefly at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
After leaving Sony Pictures, Zabel went on to work for Mandalay Entertainment for seven years as a chief financial officer. Finally, in 2002, he struck out on his own and founded Media Finance Structures.
2. Jamie Spears’ lawyer tried to smear John Zabel in court…
John Zabel was appointed temporary conservator of Britney Spears’ estate at a court hearing in Los Angeles on Wednesday (29 September). At the same hearing, Jamie Spears was stripped of his role in his daughter’s conservatorship, bringing his 13-year control over his daughter to an end.
Britney’s lawyer Mathew Rosengart had petitioned the court to replace Jamie Spears with Zabel on a temporary basis ahead of Wednesday’s hearing – but that request was met with resistance by Jamie’s team.
In a court filing seen by TMZ, Jamie’s legal representatives questioned whether Zabel was adequately qualified to serve as a conservator of Britney’s estate. They also claimed Zabel once lost $1 million of his own money in what turned out to be a fraudulent real estate investment.
3. But Britney’s lawyer brutally hit back
Rosengart rejected Jamie’s efforts to smear Zabel as “self-evident and self-serving” in a court filing seen by Deadline.
View this post on Instagram
“[Jamie] wants to escape justice and accountability (but will not) and he will evidently do or say anything to avoid it,” Rosengart wrote.
“He knows that when he is suspended he must turn over the conservatorship files, including purported attorney-client privileged documents (communications with his lawyers), to the new temporary conservator,” the court filing said.
Rosengart went on to describe Zabel as “a highly-esteemed, nationally-recognised award-winning CPA with an impeccable record of serving in positions of trust”. In one final blow, Rosengart suggested that Zabel’s track record stands in “stark contrast to Mr Spears, a reported alcoholic and gambling addict, with zero financial background or experience in financial matters”.
In the end, judge Penny sided with Britney’s legal team and agreed to suspend Jamie and appoint John Zabel in his place.
4. Britney’s new conservator hopefully won’t stick around for long
Of course, Zabel hopefully won’t serve as Britney’s conservator for very long. As of now, he has only been appointed as conservator of the singer’s estate until the end of the year – and he might not even last that long if the conservatorship is terminated before then.
In fact, it now looks likely that the conservatorship could be terminated at Britney’s next court date on 12 November. None of those involved object to termination of the legal arrangement, and the singer expressly stated that she wanted it wound up during a court appearance in June.
It is not entirely clear yet exactly how long it might take to officially terminate the conservatorship – but one thing seems clear: Zabel should only serve as Britney Spears’ conservator for a relatively brief period of time.
Britney’s conservatorship is officially in its last days – and nobody can turn back the clock on the legal arrangement that has controlled her life for the last 13 years.
More: Britney Spears