Why Nichelle Nichols’ Manager Lived on Her Property

Nichelle Nichols attends the Vintage Hollywood Wine & Food tasting benefiting The People Concern on June 9, 2018

Tiffany Rose/Getty Images Nichelle Nichols attends the Vintage Hollywood Wine & Food tasting benefiting The People Concern on June 9, 2018

For nearly a decade, Gilbert Bell served as Nichelle Nichols’ business manager. They first worked together on a project called “Noah’s Room.” From there. they collaborated on a few more projects before Nichols asked Bell to come on as her full-time business manager about six months later.

He stayed on as her business manager until 2018 when her son, Kyle Johnson, filed for conservatorship over her person and her estate. Johnson claimed that he needed to be appointed as conservator for his mother because she had dementia and Bell was taking advantage of her.

Johnson accused Bell of forcing his mother to work to profit off the commissions, stealing money from her estate, and living on her property without paying a fair market price for rent. He claimed that Bell was basically living off his mother’s estate and using her fame for his own gain.

In an exclusive interview with Heavy, Bell explained how he began living on Nichols’ property and why he continued to live there, even after the conservatorship was granted.


Bell Claims Nichols Offered Him Her Guest House

Bell said that once they started officially working together, he was over at Nichols’ Woodland Hills estate all the time. Bell had a house in Studio City, Los Angeles at the time, so he was doing the 30-45 minute drive to Nichols’ house nearly every day.

Bell claimed that when he told Nichols he was thinking about selling his house, she suggested that he move on to her estate.

“She had a guest house on her property,” Bell said. “We called it a carriage house, cottage. She wanted to know if I would move into that because my being just 200 feet away would make it a lot easier for us to work on projects all the way through.”

Bell continued, saying that he was unsure at first. He described himself as a person who “likes to be on my own.” However, he conceded that it made sense to stay there for a bit while he found a new house and sold his current place. So, he said that he took her offer.

He ended up staying a lot longer than he expected though. He told Heavy:

Six months went into a year and then so on and so forth. At first she wouldn’t allow me to pay any rent, mortgage, utilities, nothing because it was a working relationship. With time, I said ‘I can’t do this. We’re going to have to come up with a lease if I’m going to continue to stay here.’ We went back and forth. I offered a certain amount. She wanted a lot less. She said it was too much… finally we came up with an agreed price.

Bell said that when Nichols got pancreatitis in 2013, he essentially became her full-time caregiver. He maintained that he was able to do this because he lived in her guest house. When she had a stroke nearly two years later, she needed round-the-clock care, according to Bell. He said he was the one to arrange for all of that.

Bell insisted that though he was living on Nichols’ property for discounted rent, it was because she wanted him there. He maintained that the rent they agreed on was at her insistence, not his.


Johnson Claims Bell Was Ripping Off His Mother

After the conservatorship was granted in 2019, a legal battle ensued between Bell and Johnson. According to a feature published by The LA Times in August 2021, Bell filed a lawsuit against Johnson. He alleged that Johnson was trying to force him out of the guest house, which had been his permanent residence for several years by that time.

In a countersuit that Johnson filed against Bell, Johnson alleged that Bell “wrongfully induced Ms. Nichols, to execute two unconscionable rental agreements with Bell as tenant of the premises for eight years on terms shockingly below fair market rates.”

The court document continued, “Although the premises could command rents exceeding $2,500 -$3,500.00 per month, Bell obtained a monthly rent of only three hundred dollars ($300.00/mo.) over the entire period of eight years. Additionally, Ms. Nichols was required to pay for Bell’s utilities and other services (such as phone, internet & cable) for the premises.”

Johnson did not dispute that Nichols had agreed to these terms for Bell’s residence on her property. However, he alleged that his mother was not mentally fit to make such a rental agreement and that Bell had manipulated her into signing the lease.

Bell continued to live on Nichols’ estate as the legal battle continued. He told Heavy that he finally moved in the summer of 2021 when Johnson sold his mother’s property. Bell made an arrangement to move out with the buyers after the property was sold. He never reached an agreement with Johnson. Bell still insists that his living arrangements and the terms of the lease were Nichols’ idea.

Heavy has reached out to Nichols and Johnson through their lawyer but has not received a response.

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