Record producer and manager Lou Pearlman, who formed several successful boy bands such as NSYNC and Backstreet Boys during the height of his success in the music industry in the ’90s, died on Friday.
The FBI has confirmed that Pearlman, 62, died in a federal prison on Friday, Rolling Stone reported. Pearlman was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2008 after he was found guilty of running a Ponzi scheme and defrauding investors of over $300 million. He would have been released in 2029.
Authorities have not stated the cause of Lou Pearlman’s death. However, he is known to have had health issues. According to People, Pearlman was diabetic and had a stroke in 2010.
Here are a few things you probably did not know about Lou Pearlman.
1. Pearlman was already a successful businessman before his stint in the music industry.
While Lou Pearlman made a mark for himself in the music industry with his Trans Continental Records, he had already got a taste of the business world before venturing into the music scene in the ’90s.
According to Vanity Fair, Pearlman came up with an idea for a helicopter taxi service in New York while attending Queens College. He eventually launched the business with just one helicopter. The company was reportedly bought out by a competitor.
Pearlman also created an aviation company that operated with blimps. He reportedly studied about airships for some time under German industrialist Theodor Wullenkemper in Germany.
Pearlman’s first blimp company, Airship Enterprises Ltd., ended in a disaster after the blimp he had built crashed during its debut flight. Pearlman rebounded and created another blimp company, Airship International, which was much more successful than its predecessor. This time, he raised finds to buy a blimp from Wullenkemper. With new investors, the company expanded and he created Trans Continental Airlines, an aircraft leasing company.
2. Pearlman was the cousin of Art Garfunkel.
Lou Pearlman, who was born to Jewish parents in New York in 1954, is the cousin of musician Art Garfunkel. Garfunkel is said to be one of the people who nurtured Pearlman’s interest in music.
Pearlman’s childhood friend Alan Gross once revealed that Garfunkel’s parents used to drive him and Pearlman to see Garfunkel and Paul Simon perform at Mitchell Gardens in their early days, Tampa Bay Times reported.
It is unknown whether Garfunkel had any direct influence on Pearlman’s decision to go into music management. Pearlman is said to have been inspired to venture into music management thanks to the success of New Kids on the Block, Rolling Stone reported.
Pearlman’s Trans Continental Records introduced many artists including Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, Take 5, Aaron Carter, and LFO.
3. Pearlman allegedly molested his artists.
Lou Pearlman has been accused of molesting his artists.
According to Vanity Fair, the parent of one Backstreet Boys member complained that Pearlman’s “inappropriate behavior” had made Nick Carter “uncomfortable” with staying over at his house. The mother of two members of another boy group created by Pearlman, Take 5, also described Pearlman as a “sexual predator.”
He allegedly showed some of his teenage artists pornography and in another instance jumped into their bed naked to play.
The lead singer of one of Pearlman’s boy bands, the Lyte Funky Ones (LFO), even questioned his motives for entering the music business.
“I just think he wanted cute guys around him; this was all an excuse. And then lightning crazily struck and an empire was created. It was all dumb luck. I think his motives for getting into music were different,” Rich Cronin said.
Pearlman’s music empire started crumbling after Backstreet Boys sued him in 1998 in a bid to get out of their contract due to a dispute over their earnings, MTV reported. The members of Backstreet Boys reportedly made $300,000 each while Pearlman is said to have bagged millions, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Other bands under Pearlman’s Trans Continental Records soon followed suit.
4. Pearlman was found guilty of defrauding investors through a Ponzi scheme.
In 2007, authorities in Florida announced that Trans Continental Airlines’ Employee Investment Savings Account was a fraud, Vanity Fair reported. Between the early ’90s and 2006, Pearlman apparently defrauded investors of about $300 million through this program.
Pearlman fled to Bali, Indonesia, after his Ponzi scheme was uncovered. However, he was eventually arrested and repatriated to the U.S. face charges, Fox News reported. Pearlman was sentenced to 25 years in prison in May 2008 for fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy.
Since news surfaced that Lou Pearlson is dead, many people – including some of his former artists – have expressed their opinions about him and voiced their condolences on social media.
During a 2014 interview, where Pearlson bragged that his Ponzi scheme was more financially rewarding than Bernie Madoff’s, he said he would have had the opportunity to pay back the money he defrauded from investors if he was allowed to create another boy band, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
“If I was given a chance to put another band together, that would have paid everybody back. But I never had that opportunity, and that’s what was very upsetting,” he said.
[Photo by Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images]