Lou Pearlman: How Did the Talent Manager Die?

If there’s one thing absolutely nobody can deny, it’s that there’s a serious dark side to the entertainment industry spanning not just financial but also mental, physical, and sexual exploitation. This much is actually even explored in more ways than one across all four episodes of ID’s ‘Fallen Idols: Nick and Aaron Carter,’ especially with the way some professionals are mentioned. Amongst them is none other than Louis “Lou” Jay Pearlman, a once-renowned talent manager turned voracious scam artist as well as an alleged groomer — we specify alleged on purpose.

Lou Pearlman Was the Man Behind the Rise of Boy Bands

Although a proud native of diverse New York, Lou reportedly developed keen interests in aviation plus entertainment at quite an early age through internal, familial home experiences alone. That’s because, on the one hand, he was essentially raised right near Flushing Airport at Mitchell Gardens Apartments, and on the other, his first cousin is actor, musician, and poet Arthur “Art” Garfunkel. It was thus no surprise when this school reporter tried evolving into a band/entertainment manager while still a teenager, only to step into the world of flight once success proved elusive.

Lou was actually in his first year at Queens College when he came up with the idea of a helicopter taxi service for a class project, just to then make it a reality by launching the business in the 1970s. He wasn’t entirely triumphant in this endeavor either, yet his decision to master any knowledge about airships soon panned out as he subsequently established Airship International, and it thrived. However, he did falsely claim a partnership with German businessman Th eodor Wüllenkemper while going public to raise $3 million in 1985, plus he ostensibly also falsified stock numbers for years.

But alas, it wasn’t until well after Airship International had relocated to Orlando, Florida, and signed MetLife as well as SeaWorld as two of their many clients that they began suffering owing to crashes. It was then that Lou dipped out of aviation to return to his first love, establishing Trans Continental Records with the intent of helping shape boy bands upon being inspired by New Kids on the Block. Little did anyone know he’d end up being the mastermind behind the initial international conquest of two of the most popular 1990s five-member boy bands: obviously, Backstreet Boys and ‘NSYNC.

Therefore, of course, Lou’s life gradually turned upside down, enabling him to not only be rather luxurious on a personal level but also own a large work-related entertainment complex in Orlando. Though this period was rather limited since nearly all the musical acts he represented sued him in federal court for misrepresentation and fraud at one point or another, starting with the Backstreet Boys. They felt their contract was unfair because apart from Lou earning as their manager plus producer, he was also silently being paid as a sixth member of the band, meaning while the actual group had only ever received $300,000 for all of their hard work, he’d made millions.

Lou — who’d begun styling himself as Big Poppa — was later sued by ‘NSYNC on similar terms too, which further brought to light the fact they were forced to live on an allowance of $35 a day until 1999. Then came the 2002 lawsuit accusing him of criminal racketeering as well as stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from then-14-year-old Aaron Carter, just for it to soon be settled out of court. There was no particular mention of grooming in these cases, yet both ‘Fallen Idols: Nick and Aaron Carter’ as well as ‘The Boy Band Con: The Lou Pearlman Story’ indicate this manager often behaved inappropriately with or was way too close to the young artists under him.

As if all this wasn’t enough, with Lou’s ensuing choice to evolve into a talent scout came several additional lawsuits declaring his entire business plan and all his practices were nothing but scams. However, it was only in 2006 that it came to light that he’d actually carried out a Ponzi scheme for over two decades, defrauding investors out of more than $1 billion (out of which $300 million is still missing). According to records, he’d enticed people and banks alike to invest in his businesses, most of which existed just on paper, before further expanding his methods upon gaining fame through his boy bands.

Lou Pearlman Died in Prison in 2016

It was reportedly shortly before Florida regulators announced Lou’s major businesses were indeed massive frauds in February 2007 that he was last seen in Orlando — he went on the run. Thankfully, though, a tourist couple from Germany was able to identify him while he was living in a tourist hotel in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, resulting in his ultimate arrest on June 14, 2007. He was subsequently extradited to Florida and charged with conspiracy, filing false bankruptcy, making false statements for bankruptcy, plus money laundering, to which he later pleaded guilty.

Therefore, on May 21, 2008, Lou was sentenced to 25 years, with the judge determining he could reduce his prison time by a month for every million dollars he helped a bankruptcy trustee recover. But alas, upon suffering a serious cardiac arrest, the 62-year-old died while in custody at the low-security Federal Correctional Institution-Miami in Miami-Dade County, Florida, on August 19, 2016. He’d previously already suffered a stroke in 2010, following which he was diagnosed with an infection of a heart valve and had had surgery to replace the same mere weeks prior to his death.

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