The former manager and creator of boy bands the Backstreet Boys and N Sync has died in prison. Lou Pearlman, who was 62, was convicted in 2008 of conspiracy, money laundering and making false statements during bankruptcy proceedings and sentenced to 25 years in prison with debts totalling over $300 million.
Former N Sync members Justin Timberlake and Lance Bass paid tribute to their disgraced former manager on Twitter over the weekend. So too did Aaron Carter and former O-Town member Ashley Angel Parker, the boy band formed during the first season of MTV’s ‘Making the Band’.
During the 1990’s Pearlman founded Trans Continental Records and spent $3 million on a talent scouting operation which focused heavily on Orlando, Florida. He was inspired to create his own boy band after being introduced to New Kids on the Block in 1989 after they chartered one of his luxury jets. At the time they were reportedly earning more than Michael Jackson.
Pearlman hired behind the scenes hit-makers Denniz PoP and Max Martin to write songs for his new boy band, with the Backstreet Boys going on to become one of the world’s biggest pop acts. Their second album, 1999’s ‘Millennium’, would become one of the biggest selling albums of all time, shifting over 40 million units worldwide.
After creating the Backstreet Boys in 1993, Pearlman went to work on another boy band, without the knowledge of his first creation. This despite the same songwriters working on material for both acts. It’s a story that was recently recounted in ‘The Pop Machine: Inside the Hit Factory‘ by John Seabrook, who quoted Pearlman as saying: “My feeling was, where there’s McDonald’s, there’s Burger King.”
N Sync were formed in 1995 and would be even bigger than the Backstreet Boys, in large part thanks to the lead role played by Mickey Mouse Club star Justin Timberlake. Pearlman would also pluck another young star from the Disney talent club, Britney Spears, who he saw as being his own version of the late-80’s teen star Debbie Gibson.
Pearlman’s methods of star creation continue to have a major influence on how pop acts are manufactured and marketed today. The Backstreet Boys‘ 1996 tour of Asia has been credited with inspiring the birth of K-Pop, while Pearlman would also become an executive producer of the reality TV show ‘Making of the Band’, a precursor to ‘The X-Factor’.
The eventual fall of Pearlman would come in the late 2000’s after all of the acts he’d managed besides US5 sued him in U.S. Federal Court for fraud, claiming that he’d stolen most of the money they’d earned while under his management. In his contact with the Backstreet Boys he was paid as their “sixth member“.
There have also been accusations of child molestation levelled against Pearlman, some of which featured prominently in a Vanity Fair magazine article in 2007 titled ‘Mad About The Boys‘. Pearlman later addressed these accusations from federal prison in 2014 in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, stating that such claims were unsubstantiated.
Pearlman fled to Indonesia in late 2007 after being accused of running a $300 million Ponzi scheme. However, he was extradited and convicted the following year. After suffering a stroke in 2010, Pearlman’s health continued to deteriorate. He died in the Federal Correctional Institution in Texarkana, Texas on Friday, August 19th.