Britney's Timing: Was It All About the Prenup?

Britney Spears | Martin Scorsese | The Who

Britney's Timing: Was It All About the Prenup?

Britney Spears didn’t pick Nov. 6 as the day to file for divorce from Kevin Federline by accident.

She filed two years and one month from the day of her marriage, on Oct. 6, 2004. Her prenup, according to legal theorists, evidently carried increases for Federline for every year of their marriage. And those deadlines, they say, likely had 30-day grace periods.

Hence, Nov. 6 would have been Britney's last chance to get out of paying a third year of alimony settlement to a basically talentless slacker who was a drain on her finances.

And in the end, money is probably what Spears’ divorce is all about. Since she deliberately showed off a new trim body on David Letterman’s show the other night, Spears is obviously getting ready to go back to work. If a new album and tour are on the boards, Spears obviously doesn't want to share the proceeds with Federline. It was clearly better to get out now, so that K-Fed can lay claim to only half of Spears’ earnings during what has been the most fallow period in her career.

Indeed, Spears has no doubt been feeling the pinch of diminished income since she met Federline and quickly had two children with him. The one thing she’s been unable to do is tour, and that’s really where she makes her bread and butter.

Spears has never been a huge recording artist. She hasn’t released an album of new material since 2003, and it’s hard to say whether there’s an audience out there to buy one if she did.

Her biggest hits occurred some time ago, between 1999 and 2001, when "Baby One More Time" and "Oops! ... I Did It Again" caused sensations. But Spears didn’t write those songs, and she doesn’t get a publishing royalty for any of her few big hits. That has no doubt hurt her pocketbook, since sales of her albums are long since finished.

Without touring or getting paid for commercial endorsements, Spears doesn’t have much of a profitable career these days. Add in two kids, a husband with expensive tastes who doesn’t earn money, various family members and employees, and Spears could be facing Michael Jackson- type financial problems. Offloading Federline, even with a prenup, is probably the first best thing she can do to cut expenses.

Spears, by the way, also has her name on a charitable foundation. But Nina Biggar, director of the Cambridge, Mass.-based Britney Spears Foundation, didn’t even know Spears had filed for divorce when I called her yesterday. She told me that the organization had given away almost $2 million in its short life, including $800,000 to the Twin Towers Fund.

The charity is entirely funded by Spears, but Biggar told me that this past year’s contribution was lower than the one before. This doesn’t reflect lack of interest on Spears’ part, but just lack of funds. Once K-Fed is off the payroll, Britney will be able to afford a return to her charitable activities.

Scorsese Departs for Paramount

Today, the theme of every story is timing. In Martin Scorsese’s case, the timing of his decision to go into business with Paramount Pictures is curious at best.

For one thing, Scorsese has "The Departed" at Warner Bros., where he’s got his biggest hit in a long time. One would have thought Warner Bros. would be mounting a gigantic Oscar campaign for "The Departed." With Scorsese departing for Paramount, Warner Bros. may feel little incentive to make that happen.

Scorsese’s move away from Warner Bros. also may signal a problem for Graham King’s IEG company. King produced the last three Scorsese movies, including "The Departed." But in 2005, he signed a first-look deal at Warner Bros., and the idea was to stay and make Scorsese movies there with IEG participant Leonardo DiCaprio. Is King being left behind now, abandoned at Warner Bros. without Scorsese? If so, that wasn’t the plan.

For Paramount’s Brad Grey, the Scorsese announcement is more important to him than it is to the director. With Tom Cruise gone, Paramount needed a name-brand cornerstone talent to come on board. Not only that: Grey could be finding himself in rough legal waters soon thanks to the Pellicano case. Signing Scorsese is almost like bringing in a huge career insurance policy.

So stay tuned, especially to the Oscar part. If "The Departed" doesn’t start receiving a huge push from Warner Bros., you won’t be surprised.

Who Are They? Who, Who?

What if The Who got back together and put out their first new album since 1982? Wouldn’t that CD be a huge seller, and debut at No. 1? Yes?

Unfortunately, no. The Who released "Endless Wire" last week, but no one seems to know. The album sold 88,000 copies and finished at No. 6 this week, behind Barry Manilow and a Disney soundtrack.

How the mighty have fallen!

Frankly, I wouldn’t even have remembered that "Endless Wire" was out, except for seeing the title in a listing. Pete Townshend, perhaps overcome with his own legend, did almost nothing to promote the album or court the press. The result is apathy or unawareness, even from the most fervent fans. Luckily, a nice publicist from Universal/Republic sent me a copy late yesterday. A review will follow tomorrow. …