Lou Pearlman, the manager and producer of such boy bands as NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys, has reportedly died at the age of 62.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the impresario who also introduced the world to O-Town, passed away while still serving a lengthy prison term on Friday.
Pearlman was convicted of running a Ponzi scheme worth $500 million back in 2008 and was sentenced to serve 25 years in prison. Throughout the 1990s, though, most people did not think of Lou Pearlman as a scandalous businessman. With the rising number of successful boy band groups that he groomed and launched, he appeared to be a mastermind of sorts that had an uncanny eye for talent.
The commercial success of NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys during that period spoke volumes about Lou Pearlman’s insight when it came to the music industry and what would sell around the world. Keep in mind that NSYNC – led by J.C. Chasez and future solo star Justin Timberlake – generated six hit singles that landed in the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Four of the group’s albums landed within the Top 10 of the Billboard 20 chart as well with two of them – Celebrity and No Strings Attached– taking the top spot.
One of his earliest acts, the Backstreet Boys, landed nine albums within the Top 10 and eventually had two of their albums hit #1 on the Billboard chart as well – Black & Blue and Millennium.
The rise of Lou Pearlman’s empire came to a screeching halt in the late 1990s. Instead of making headlines for creating new popular boy bands, Lou racked up quite a few breaking news stories for the burnt bridges between him and his existing clients. With the exception of an easily-forgotten boy band US5, all of his acts – including NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys – went on to sue Pearlman for fraud and misinterpretation.
Behind the scenes of his boy band acts topping charts and wooing hearts, Lou Pearlman’s Trans Continental empire became the breeding ground for a massive Ponzi scheme with over 80 businesses with different degrees of legitimacy. Pearlman would convince his victimized investors to trust their funds in his growing line of luxury planes – investing millions into the Employee Investment Savings Accounts of Pearlman’s company.
Lou Pearlman’s empire apparently drew enough red flags to lead to investigators digging deep to see what he was hiding behind the curtain. The existence of his Ponzi scheme was discovered by the investigators in 2006 – showing that the former manager and producer of chart-topping boy bands had defrauded at least $300 million from his numerous investors.
According to TMZ, Lou Pearlman’s “cause of death is unknown.”
With the news of his recent passing, many people likely wondered how his former clients would react to his death. As shown by the responses on Twitter, many of them acknowledge the dark side of Pearlman’s career but also express gratitude for helping them to launch their careers.
Mixed emotions right now, but RIP Lou Pearlman.
— Chris Kirkpatrick (@IamCKirkpatrick) August 21, 2016
— Lance Bass (@LanceBass) August 20, 2016
— Vicky (@vicky_collier86) August 21, 2016
— Ashley Parker Angel (@ParkerAngel) August 21, 2016
#LouPearlman my old manager died in prison… Rip Lou not the best business guy really at all but he did discover me karma is real
— KiD CaRTer (@aaroncarter) August 21, 2016
— Kalkarni00 (@kalkarni00) August 21, 2016
However, on the opposite side of the generally positive tone of reactions and responses on Twitter, quite a few people used the death of Lou Pearlman as a target for punchlines, memes, and harsh comments.
— Dave Quinn (@NineDaves) August 21, 2016
Say this for #LouPearlman, he wasn’t just a scoundrel. He was a really creepy scoundrel. pic.twitter.com/RIB4uDGwFs
— David Wild (@Wildaboutmusic) August 21, 2016
Completely disgusted by people excusing #LouPearlman because pop music. Stole from retirees, MILLIONS.
— Gwen Orel (@gwenorel1) August 21, 2016
In a 2014 interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Lou Pearlman said he “deeply” regretted what happened.
[Photo by Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images]