Lou Pearlman was one of the most important figures in pop music during the turn of the 21st century, but died in federal prison after having been found guilty of fraudulent business practices and money laundering. A talented salesman and boy band mogul, he launched the meteoric careers of *NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys while simultaneously transforming Orlando, Florida, into the official headquarters of teen pop. Many of Pearlman's clients became multi-million dollar superstars, but the mogul's success was tempered by his willingness to cut corners. The majority of Pearlman's groups eventually sued him for misrepresentation and fraud, and his career had all but ended by 2007, when Pearlman was arrested (and subsequently incarcerated) after a long-running series of fraudulent investments.

A close relative of Art Garfunkel, Pearlman was raised in Queens, New York, where he developed a fascination for music and aviation. When managing a band turned out to be fruitless, the teenaged Pearlman shifted his full focus to aviation, spending time in the Flushing airport and eventually befriending the German blimp mogul Theodor Wüllenkemper. Pearlman began managing his own companies in the '80s, including a helicopter shuttle service and a blimp advertising company. He also made forays into entertainment by investing in the Chippendale dancers. When New Kids on the Block chartered one of Pearlman's planes in the late '80s, he took note of the group's lucrative success and decided to properly enter the music business.

After placing an advertisement in The Orlando Sentinel, Pearlman began piecing together the lineup for his first group, the Backstreet Boys. An open casting call in early 1993 yielded the right crop of talent, and Pearlman steadily fine-tuned the group with help from Johnny Wright, who had previously managed New Kids on the Block. Pearlman devoted his time and energy to the music business, allowing his other companies to go down in flames (literally, as many of his blimps were irreparably damaged in crashes). Buoyed by his seemingly bottomless pockets, the Backstreet Boys became a worldwide phenomenon, selling over 100 million albums and dominating the airwaves in 45 countries. Pearlman repeated that success with *NSYNC, although the majority of his other acts (including O-Town, Take 5, Aaron Carter, and LFO) only enjoyed brief flashes of fame.

Pearlman's own fame was likewise brief, as the boy band craze began to die down during the early 2000s. He was also the target of lawsuits from Aaron Carter, the Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, and several former co-workers. Pearlman briefly shifted his focus overseas, where he managed the German boy band US5, but courtroom troubles eventually brought him back to the United States in 2007. Early the following year, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison, having pled guilty to charges of conspiracy, money laundering, and making false statements during a bankruptcy proceeding. In 2010 he suffered a stroke, and in August 2016 he died from cardiac arrest at the Federal Correctional Institution, Miami. He was 62 years old. ~ Andrew Leahey, Rovi

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