Money, as Cyndi Lauper once sang, changes everything. Just ask the Backstreet Boys: In the wake of their multi-platinum breakthrough, the kings of teenybopper pop have found themselves embroiled in a complex web of lawsuits and disputes, according to Entertainment Weekly magazine.
At the center of it all is a Florida-based businessman named Louis Pearlman, who discovered the young group in 1992 and continues to oversee their career. Last year the Backstreet Boys — who’ve grossed an estimated $200 million — sued Pearlman for $10 million in additional profits. Both sides say the legal action was little more than a friendly family feud. “Lou Pearlman really is in some ways a father figure to the Boys,” says Howard Siegel, an attorney for the group. The dispute, which forced a renegotiation of the Boys’ contract, “has never been about disloyalty or lack of appreciation by them, it’s just that there were a lot of business things that they didn’t understand. Everyone recognized that adjustments were in order.” That lawsuit was just settled; Siegel and Pearlman both say the new agreement allows Pearlman to continue as the president of Backstreet Boys, Inc. “I’m the sixth Backstreet Boy,” says the 44-year-old Pearlman. “I always have been, I always will be.”
But here’s where it gets complicated: On Sept. 18, the group parted ways with its Orlando-based management company, Wright Stuff, which had been — but no longer is — affiliated with Pearlman’s company, Trans Continental Records. The Backstreet Boys, Pearlman, and Wright Stuff continue to be wrapped up in complex money-related legal wrangling. What’s more, Pearlman and the Boys have recently sued their record company, Zomba (the parent company of Jive Records). Pearlman claims that some royalties have been withheld and that Zomba still hasn’t paid a finder’s fee promised to him for bringing the band to the label. “We’re all trying to talk and resolve the whole situation, but there’s a lot of money at stake,” Pearlman says. (A spokesperson for Zomba declined to comment on the suit.) Confused yet? Well, here’s a quick summary: Quit playing games with my wallet! — Rob Brunner