Disgraced record producer, Lou Pearlman, passed away late Friday night, sources have confirmed.
The man behind Backstreet Boys and ‘NSYNC who was convicted of running a $500 million Ponzi scheme in 2008 was currently serving out a 25-year prison sentence. Several prominent pop figures have reacted to his death, including former ‘NSYNC members, Justin Timberlake and Lance Bass. “I hope he found some peace. God bless and RIP, Lou Pearlman,” tweeted Timberlake.
Pearlman, who lived to be 62, was moved from the low-security prison in Texas to the federal prison in Miami, records confirm. The cause of death is yet unknown. Lance Bass broke the news on Saturday, August 20, writing, “He might not have been a stand up businessman, but I wouldn’t be doing what I love today without his influence.”
Pearlman managed to build a multi-million dollar empire by the mid-1990s, which was largely built on the back of the boy bands’ massive success. It turned out that his supposed empire was built on fraud, which is why almost every act that he represented ultimately filed lawsuits against him by the late-2000s.
The Backstreet Boys were an unparalleled success and ‘NSYNC quickly followed in similar fashion, recording six Top 10 singles on the Hot 100 and four albums that landed in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200. O-Town weren’t as successful, but they did manage to land a single and an album in the Top 10.
But in the midst of the success, rumors began to surface of possible inappropriate relationships between Pearlman and the male group members. “We would hear things, for sure,” Lance Bass said in 2014. “He would always have young boy limo drivers for Trans Continental Records. Those limo drivers would always be put into different boy bands. Then I’d hear rumors that he would molest the boys before they would even get into the groups. I don’t know how much of that is true, but to me, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”
A New York native, Lou Pearlman was born in 1954 and was raised as an only child. Art Garfunkel from the famous folk duet Simon and Garfunkel was Pearlman’s first cousin, and it was he who introduced him to music. He would get into business with himself, and by the 1980s, his Trans Continental would be the base of operations for a Ponzi scheme involving 84 businesses, many of which had questionable legitimacies.
By the early 90s he was forced to abandon his airship business. In 1992 he placed an ad in the Orlando Sentinel, looking for teen male vocalists, fast forward a couple of years and the Backstreet Boys were born. He followed up on his success with several other boy bands, including the mega-popular ‘NSYNC, but by the late 1990s everything would unravel for Pearlman, who was sued by every band he represented.
In 2006 investigators found that he defrauded investors out of more than $300 million. He fled to Indonesia in 2007 but was arrested for conspiracy, money laundering and making false statements. “You know, I deeply regret what happened,” Pearlman told The Hollywood Reporter in 2014. “And I’ll be back.”