Contributor | Telegraph Local
Pictured above, Lou Pearlman’s mugshot from his arrest in 2008, saved to public database in 2011.
You may remember Lou Pearlman from the $300 million Ponzi scheme that landed him behind bars. He died in prison in August 2016 at the age of 62. In recent news, former members of his boy band enterprise have spoken out at last about the legacy of financial abused that was inflicted upon them.
Lance Bass has gone on record to discuss Pearlman, the man behind NSYNC. Lance Bass is famous as one of the singers from the NSYNC lineup. He expressed, at last, his confusion and deep trouble at the death of Pearlman.
“When I learned that Pearlman had passed away,” Bass said to USA Today, “I was so confused on exactly how to feel. I was like ‘How could you die right now when we don’t have this closure? Like there are so many people who are waiting for you to realize what you did. And it pissed me off that he had passed away.”
Bass expressed a feeling of relief, which lead to corresponding guilt, that no one would ever be affected by Pearlman’s deceit again.
So, who was Lou Pearlman, and why did his death bring so much relief and confliction to his former colleagues?
Pearlman’s Ponzi scheme was a brutal reality for some of the boy bands he created and managed. The members of N’Sync recalled to Nightline, quoted by the Rolling Stone that they were in “the biggest boy band in the world and selling millions of records,” yet could barely afford their apartment in Orlando.
Rolling Stone recounted the scandal this way. Pearlman was the creator and the launch manager of major success stories such as N’Sync, Backstreet Boys, LFO and O’Town. Yet, as he propelled them into the spotlight, he withheld their royalties for himself.
Pearlman’s con was an extravagant and elaborate one. Citing ABC, Pearlman wined and dined investors for decades. He impressed them with limo rides, private jet flights, and paraded them through studios where his superstars were rehearsing. He used his flashy marketing lure to promise investors and annual return from his band projects. This was too good for the investors to pass up.
Some have even said Pearlman’s unchecked greed is the reason behind the massive public success these bands had. Pearlman’s bands of the 90s and 2000s were cultural trademarks of those decades.
Citing ABC, Pearlman got his idea to produce and drive the success of boy bands from New Kids on the Block, when he was then in the blimp business. They rented airplane service from him then. When he inquired about their success, and how they could afford a plane, he realized that he was in the “wrong business”. Pearlman completely reinvented his business and marketing in Orlando which was the emerging region for music startups in those days. He set out on the fated path to rival New Kids on the Block that created the teen gaga driven cash machine he is known for today.
Pearlman’s scandal was discovered and he was arrested in 2008. He was sentenced to 25-years-in prison but had only served 8 years of this sentence upon his passing. Pearlman, citing Nightline, spent his time in prison by developing a prison choir and even pitched a music reality show while behind bars.
Pearlman’s story comes back to the surface and into the press ahead of a biopic film about his enterprise schedule. This film has the current working title Transcom. It is headed up by songwriter Desmond Child and Andreas Carlsson.