Lou Pearlman, the former blimp magnate who became known as the creator of *NSYNC, the Backstreet Boys, and numerous less successful pop groups, has died in prison of undisclosed causes at 62, People magazine reports.
Pearlman's success with his first two groups — and, to a lesser extent, with such acts as LFO, O-Town, and Natural — led to a thriving Orlando pop-music scene, and also provided the mogul with an opportunity to scam scores of investors in a $300-million Ponzi scheme. Having already weathered lawsuits from his top acts for his egregiously unfair contracts (he reportedly took a commission both as his bands' manager and as a legal sixth member of the groups), Pearlman attempted to flee from justice before being apprehended in Indonesia.
In 2008, Pearlman pled guilty to charges of money laundering, conspiracy, and fraud, drawing a sentence of 25 years in federal prison, a stretch Pearlman could have reduced had be been able to pay back any of the money he stole; he did not.
Pearlman was also the subject of many rumors involving inappropriate conduct around the young men in his charge. An October 2007 Vanity Fair story detailed allegations of "some kind of inappropriate behavior" toward Nick Carter and an incident during which Pearlman allegedly exposed himself to two teenage boys, one of which was a member of one of Pearlman's bands. The mother of two of Pearlman's boy-band members stated flatly, "Did Lou rape my boys? No, he didn't. But he put them, and a lot of others, in inappropriate situations. I know that. To me, the man is just a sexual predator."
In spite of the rumors, Pearlman never faced charges over sexual misconduct.
Justin Timberlake, lead singer of *NSYNC, tweeted a short note about Pearlman's passing, wishing him peace:
I hope he found some peace. God bless and RIP, Lou Pearlman.— Justin Timberlake (@jtimberlake) August 21, 2016
Lance Bass posted a brief, bittersweet remembrance of Pearlman on Twitter, acknowledging the good and bad sides of the man who gave him his big break:
Justin and Lance's bandmate Chris Kirkpatrick left a lot unsaid with his tweet:
Mixed emotions right now, but RIP Lou Pearlman.— Chris Kirkpatrick (@IamCKirkpatrick) August 21, 2016
Michael Johnson, drummer of Pearlman's group Natural and now a member of New Beat Fund tweeted:
RIP Lou. You changed the game. Forever grateful for your belief in me. THE visionary of my generation. For better or worse, nobody compares— Michael Johnson (@SilkyBeats) August 21, 2016