Lou Pearlman Biography

(Record producer)

Birthday: June 19, 1954 (Gemini)

Born In: Flushing, New York, United States

Louis Jay Pearlman was an American record producer, boy band mogul, and convicted criminal. He created the successful 1990s boy bands such as Backstreet Boys and NSYNC. Pearlman developed passion for music and aviation quite early in his life and endeavoured in both the fields that saw him managing a band as a teenager and later starting a helicopter taxi business in New York City. He managed his own companies in the 1980s, which included a blimp advertising company as well. Pearlman eventually turned his focus on the music business and created Backstreet Boys and NSYNC. He also managed other boy bands such as O-Town, US5, Natural, Take 5, and LFO. Most of his groups later sued him for misrepresentation and fraud, and in 2006 he was accused of operating one of the largest and longest-running American Ponzi schemes that involved defrauding investors of over $300 million. Following his arrest, Pearlman pleaded guilty to money laundering, conspiracy, and making false statements during a bankruptcy proceeding and was eventually convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison. In 2016, Pearlman died in federal custody while serving his prison term.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Louis Jay Pearlman

Died At Age: 62


father: Hy Pearlman

mother: Reenie Pearlman

Born Country: United States

Fraudsters Record Producers

Height: 1.73 m

Died on: August 19, 2016

place of death: Miami, Florida, United States

More Facts

education: Queens College, City University of New York

Childhood & Early Life

Louis Jay Pearlman was born on June 19, 1954, in Flushing, New York, US, to Jewish parents Hy Pearlman and Reenie Pearlman. His father operated a dry cleaning business, while his mother was a school lunchroom aide. He was a maternal cousin of American singer, poet, and actor Art Garfunkel.

During his childhood, Pearlman and his friend Alan Gross would watch blimps take off and land from Flushing Airport which was located near his Mitchell Gardens Apartments home. In his autobiography, Bands, Brands, & Billions, Pearlman mentioned that during this period he used his position on his school newspaper and earned credentials to garner his first blimp ride, which, however, was disputed by Alan Gross, as according to the latter he was the school reporter and only allowed Pearlman to join him.

Pearlman's interest in the music industry developed early, partly inspired by Garfunkel's popularity and success in the field. He managed a band as a teenager, but when this pursuit turned out to be fruitless, he shifted his focus on aviation. While attending first year at Queens College, he did a class project where he chalked out a business plan based on the concept of a helicopter taxi service in New York City. He eventually started a helicopter taxi business in New York City by the late 1970s.

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Career, Conviction & Sentencing

Pearlman befriended the German blimp mogul Theodor Wüllenkemper and persuaded the latter to train him on blimps. He learned about the airships at the facilities of Wüllenkemper in West Germany following which he returned to the US and created Airship Enterprises Ltd. Although the company did not own a blimp at that time, it leased one to Jordache Enterprises, Inc. and Pearlman used the money received from Jordache to construct a blimp, which crashed immediately. Both the parties sued each other and after seven years, $2.5 million in damages were granted to Pearlman.

He started Airship International, a new company that also dealt in the business of leasing blimps, and raised $3 million during a 1985 public offering. He falsely claimed that he had a partnership with Wüllenkemper. In July 1991, he shifted the company to Orlando, Florida. The company, whose clients included McDonald's, MetLife and SeaWorld, was eventually shut down.

Although Airship was reporting little revenue, net income or cash flow, Pearlman actively traded the company’s stock through the brokerage firm Norbay Securities with the help of his friend and the firm’s partner Jerome Rosen. This raised the stock price of Airshiphelping Pearlman garner higher prices by selling hundreds of thousands of shares and warrants, while Rosen allegedly received handsome commissions from Pearlman for each trade.

Motivated by the success of the American boy band New Kids on the Block, Pearlman rekindled his desire to make it big in the music industry and started Trans Continental Records with the aim of replicating the band's business model.

Lou Pearlman gave an advertisement in the Orlando Sentinel in 1992 to compose a vocal group and the subsequent $3 million talent search paved way for creation of Trans Continental Records’ first band, the Backstreet Boys,consisting of five unknown performers, namely AJ McLean, Kevin Richardson, Nick Carter, Howie Dorough, and Brian Littrell. The band proved super successful and sold more than 100 million records worldwide and emerged as the best-selling boy band of all time, garnering gold, platinum, and diamond certificates in 45 different countries.

Meanwhile in 1995, Chris Kirkpatrick and Pearlman created another boy band NSYNC, with Kirkpatrick, Justin Timberlake, Joey Fatone, JC Chasez, and Lance Bass as its members. NSYNC also met with considerable success and sold over 70 million records worldwide and became one of the best-selling boy bands in history.

Lou Pearlman, the new music mogul, went on to manage several other boy bands, including US5, Natural, O-Town, Take 5, and LFO. He created a girl group Innosenseas well. He operated a large entertainment complex in Orlando, which included Trans Continental Studios, and a dance studio near Disney Worldcalled O-Town. Starting with the Backstreet Boys, all the musical bands with whom Pearlman remained associated with, except US5, sued him in federal court for misrepresentation and fraud. All such lawsuits were either won by those who sued him or were settled out of court.

He co-authored the 2003 book Bands, Brands and Billions: My Top 10 Rules for Making Any Business Go Platinum, with Wes Smith.

The investigators discovered in 2006 that Lou Pearlman had carried out one of the largest and longest-running American Ponzi schemes in which he defrauded investors of over $300 million. He thrived in luring individuals and banks for over two decades to invest in the two companies - Trans Continental Airlines Travel Services Inc. and Trans Continental Airlines Inc., which existed on paper only, and used fake documents of Lloyd's of London, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and AIG to gain the confidence of investors for his Employee Investment Savings Account program.

On June 14, 2007, Pearlman was arrested in Indonesia and was indicted by a federal grand jury on June 27. Charges against him included three counts of bank fraud and one count each of wire fraud and mail fraud. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison on charges of money laundering, conspiracy, and for making false statements during a bankruptcy proceeding by U. S. District Judge G. Kendall Sharp on May 21, 2008.

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Later Years & Death

Lou Pearlman started his prison term in 2008 and his projected release date was March 24, 2029. In 2010, Pearlman suffered a stroke while in prison. A few weeks prior to his death, Pearlman underwent a surgery to replace a heart valve. He was scheduled for another surgery but succumbed to a cardiac arrest on August 19, 2016, at the Federal Correctional Institution in Miami, Florida. He was interred in his family burial area on August 29, 2016.

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