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I was Britney's lifeline during her meltdown, claims record chief

A TOP recording executive told a court he was Britney Spears' "lifeline" during the darkest days of the pop singer's 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 Mr Lutfi in 2007-08 was when Mr 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," Mr Weiss said in Los Angeles during the defamation lawsuit brought by Mr Lutfi against Spears' parents.

Mr Lutfi claims he was Spears' personal manager and deserves millions as his share of her income during that period.

The defamation lawsuit stems from the way Mr Lutfi is depicted in a book written by Spears' mother that detailed the star's meltdown.

The trial took an early recess yesterday and will resume today.

Guardians of Spears' estate, including her father Jamie, who was in court, say Mr Lutfi was never her manager but simply a user who inserted himself into Spears' life and preyed on her vulnerabilities.

Mr Weiss told of working closely with her former personal manager Larry Rudolph, but said he was never told Mr Lutfi had assumed the role.

"Sam Lutfi never introduced himself or came in for a meeting. He never discussed records or a record contract," Mr Weiss said.

But in the end, Mr Weiss said he saw Mr Lutfi's role as a "gofer ... like a personal assistant".

Mr Weiss said the singer would discuss with him creative matters normally discussed with a manager.

"There was no manager involved," Mr Weiss said. "She was estranged from her family. I felt I was a lifeline for her. She was texting me constantly from her cell phone."

Mr Weiss said that he had known Spears since she was 16 when he signed her for a contract with Jive Records.