Thursday, March 23, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Boy-Band Impresario Lou Pearlman Dies in Prison

MIAMI (AP) — Lou Pearlman, credited for starting the boy-band craze and launching the careers of the Backstreet Boys and 'NSync, has died in prison while serving a 25-year sentence for a massive Ponzi scheme.

Citing a federal inmate database, the Orlando Sentinel reported that 62-year-old Pearlman died Friday. Authorities have not yet released a cause of death.

Pearlman's $300 million Ponzi scheme through his Trans Continental companies unraveled in 2006. He was convicted of fraud in 2008.

As his empire fell apart in 2007, Vanity Fair reported that the Ponzi scheme allegations compounded accusations of sexual misconduct Pearlman faced from numerous young men whose careers he launched in the 1990s boy-band craze.

"Some, especially the teenagers, shrugged and giggled when he showed them pornographic movies or jumped naked on their beds in the morning to wrestle and play. Others, it appears, didn't get off so easily," the article read. "For any number of young men who sought to join the world's greatest boy bands, Big Poppa's attentions were an open secret, the price some paid for fame."

Pearlman, who had pivoted to the music industry after making millions in aviation, denied the allegations.

The Backstreet Boys, whom Pearlman founded in 1993, went on to become the best-selling boy band ever. Pearlman later managed similar acts with 'NSync, LFO, Take 5 and O-Town.

Vanity Fair quoted LFO's Rich Cronin as saying Pearlman's creation of the boy-band craze was "all dumb luck."

"I just think he wanted cute guys around him; this was all an excuse," Cronin reportedly said. "And then lightning crazily struck and an empire was created. It was all dumb luck. I think his motives for getting into music were very different."

Art Garfunkel, a cousin of Pearlman's, "was among those who encouraged Pearlman's interest in music," the Vanity Fair article also noted.

From prison, as reported in 2014 by the Hollywood Reporter, Pearlman "clung tenaciously to the notion that he can conquer the charts once more."

"I deeply regret what happened," he said, as quoted in that article. "And I'll be back."

Justin Timberlake, inarguably the most successful entertainer to transcend his boy-band beginnings, tweeted about Pearlman on Sunday.

"I hope he found some peace," the post says. "God bless and RIP, Lou Pearlman."

Fellow 'NSyncer Chris Kirkpatrick tweeted: "Mixed emotions right now, but RIP Lou Pearlman."

Lance Bass, one of the few boy banders to come out as gay after the star dust settled, also tweeted Sunday about Pearlman.

"He might not have been a stand up businessman, but I wouldn't be doing what I love today [without] his influence," said Bass. "RIP Lou."

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.