Lou Pearlman wrote a business plan for a class project and soon put his theory into action. He started a helicopter taxi service in New York City, beginning with a single helicopter. He became interested in blimps and trained with a German businessman. He moved to Orlando, Florida and started an advertising business with blimps, securing Jorache as a major client. Soon, he represented MetLife, Sea World and McDonald’s, but after crashing three of his airships, his business folded.
Lou became interested in the music business by way of his first cousin, singer Art Garfunkel. Intrigued by the success of pop group New Kids on the Block, Lou founded TransContinental Records and created the label’s first band, Backstreet Boys from a publicized talent search. The band became the best selling “boy band” of all time. Not satisfied, Lou created NSYNC, O-Town, LFO, Take 5 and others. Eventually, nearly every band on the label sued Lou in Federal Court for misrepresentation and fraud. Lou either lost or settled each suit.
He purchased an internet-based talent agencies and, using an array of false names, used a tactic called “photo mill,” in which agencies force models to shoot portfolios with photographers on their own payrolls. The business received numerous complaints of misrepresentation and was soon shut down.
In 2006, investigations discovered that Lou was behind a long-running Ponzi scheme that bilked numerous investors out of $300 million dollars. He used fake bank statements, a fake accounting firm and false FDIC documents to persuade people to back his fake company, Trans Continental Airlines Travel Services Inc. Lou was sentenced to 25 years in prison and his assets were liquidated at auction.
In 2016, Lou suffered a heart attack and died while in custody at the Federal Correctional Institution in Miami, Florida. He was 62.