BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - Fans of the 88-year-old former moonwalker Buzz Aldrin were shocked over the weekend after learning that he is suing two of his children and several organizations that use his name, including the Buzz Aldrin Foundation, alleging fraudulent activity.
It seemingly started with a Tweet on June 18 from the former astronaut's official account saying that Christina Korp, Aldrin's longtime manager, no longer represents the Apollo 11 astronaut.
"Hey Twittersphere, pls RT @Buzzs_xtina was terminated and does NOT represent Buzz Aldrin in ANY capacity," the tweet read in part.
However, Aldrin's Gainesville-based attorney, Robert Bauer, who filed the civil suit this month in Brevard County Circuit Court, says problems have been boiling just under the surface for several years between the second man to ever walk on the moon and his family.
The lawsuit against Aldrin's two adult children, Andrew and Janice Aldrin, claims that they have misused finances of the Buzz Aldrin Foundation and refused to disclose financial information to their father.
The civil suit alleges that Andrew Aldrin and Korp have barred the moonwalker from dating or any romantic relationships and have slandered his name telling people that he has dementia.
"He’s an American hero and he’s aware of it, but there is nothing wrong with his mind," Bauer said.
Aldrin's children file petition for guardianship, former astronaut to undergo mental evaluation
Last fall, Bauer said Aldrin's attorneys requested seven years of financial records from the foundation. In April, the foundation gave a “very simple check ledger," Bauer said, which he described as less than forthcoming about spending tied to Aldrin's brand.
Unsatisfied with that request, Aldrin’s attorneys sent a cease and desist letter to Korp on April 17 demanding she stop using the astronaut's name and social media and turn over all assets.
On May 2, Aldrin filed a motion to revoke all power of attorney to Andrew Aldrin.
On May 18, Korp received a termination letter from Aldrin. However, because Korp is on the board of the Buzz Aldrin Foundation, the organization's spokesperson said her termination would require a majority vote on the board.
“We are not sure who is responsible for the tweet regarding Christina, but we are confident Buzz did not write this,” spokesman for Buzz Aldrin Space Foundation Jeff Carr told NASA Watch.
In the lawsuit, Aldrin accuses Korp of taking advantage of Aldrin's clout in the space industry to better her position in life and used Aldrin's credit cards without his knowledge. It also alleges she used her position with the foundation to help build up the brands of her other astronaut clients, including NASA astronaut Terry Virts.
Just want to offer some words of support for Christina Korp, my wonderful manager and a person of integrity (and interesting hair…) Also, I wish the best for the Aldrin family amid a difficult situation. pic.twitter.com/fAGzrI9oqr — Terry Virts (@AstroTerry) June 24, 2018
Lisa LaBonte, former CEO of the United Arab Emirates-based Arab Youth Venture Foundation, and Los Angeles-based Buzz Aldrin Ventures now represent his interests. A speaking engagement by the Aldrin runs tens of thousands of dollars, according to Aldrin's attorney.
"She’s handling marketing and selling Buzz’s appearance and for Buzz himself," Bauer said of LaBonte who is unaffiliated with the foundation.
On May 30, Andrew and Jan Aldrin filed a petition to establish guardianship for their father saying the 88-year-old was displaying a "cognitive decline," "loss of memory, confusion, general delusions, paranoia and unusual behavior," according to the petition filed with the Circuit Court of Brevard County.
That petition also said Aldrin had begun "associating with new acquaintances who appear to be manipulating him with false information to their own benefit and his detriment."
Carr's statement to NASA Watch also mentioned concern for Aldrin's well-being.
ICYMI: this official statement was received yesterday by @NASAWatch from the Buzz Aldrin Space Foundation (https://t.co/TVpNW2SsTV) in response to an inquiry we made about recent Twitter postings on @TheRealBuzz pic.twitter.com/jjfxrk38RR — NASA Watch (@NASAWatch) June 22, 2018
“The Aldrin family and Foundation colleagues have expressed concern fro Buzz’s potential vulnerability to manipulation by other parties seeking to gain access to and control of Foundation and personal resources," he told NASA Watch.
Bauer said he has no doubt that when the former astronaut undergoes a competency test with three court-approved doctors this week in Florida, they will determine he is in fine health for an octogenarian.
“He’s an old guy, he says some quirky things," Bauer said. "He’s in fabulous physical condition; he flew the red-eye last night."
In April, Aldrin underwent his own evaluation conducted by a UCLA psychiatrist, who concluded Aldrin was capable of managing his own finances and health, according to his attorney.
'He has a vision for space today'
Bauer said Aldrin has not been able to use his knowledge and name recognition to work on the projects he is most passionate about --getting humans to Mars "now"-- because the people around him have been making all the decisions for him.
Aldrin wants to work with the generations who are working toward going to Mars now, not in the distant future.
"Andy and Christina started pushing elementary school education outreach. He’s not looking at the kids of the future," Bauer said. "He has a vision for space today."
Appearances by one of the last remaining moonwalkers bring in money for the Buzz Aldrin Foundation, which Bauer said then goes to fund organizations that his client doesn't have any say over.
"Going down to the South Pole, he didn’t want to go," Bauer said of the 2016 trip to Antarctica, which led to Aldrin being evacuated and hospitalized. "That was a money maker. But it didn’t forward going to Mars."
Buzz Aldrin Space Foundation, Buzz Aldrin Enterprises, Inc., Sharespace Foundation, Florida Institute of Technology and Aldrin Space Institute are all named as defendants in the lawsuit filed in Brevard.
“We are deeply disappointed and saddened by the unjustified lawsuit that has been brought against us individually and against the foundation that we have built together as a family to carry on Dad’s legacy for generations to come," Andy and Jan Aldrin said in a statement over the weekend about the litigation, adding "We love and respect our father very much and remain hopeful that we can rise above this situation and recover the strong relationship that built this foundation in the first place."
Aldrin alleges the groups with his name have not provided him an account of how the foundation money is being utilized, which has damaged him financially. He is demanding to be repaid in full.
Bauer said he was unable to put a dollar amount on the lawsuit, because Aldrin didn't receive the financial documentation requested.
The Aldrin Space Institute at Florida Tech was established in the fall of 2015.
“Buzz Aldrin dictates the mission of his institute, but it’s his son, Andrew Aldrin, who directs the day-to-day affairs,” according to FIT.
The group has hosted workshops on colonizing Mars and the effects on the first humans to live there, as well as on engineering and Martian gardening. Aldrin has even made guest appearances teaching classes at FIT.
“As this is a matter involving pending litigation, Florida Tech has no comment at this time," a spokesperson for Florida Tech said in an email to News 6 about the lawsuit.
Bauer said Aldrin's attorneys are working to determine just who "does own Aldrin and his personification."
"Our dream is for Buzz to get control of his life and for him to be able to share his dream with the world," Bauer said of Aldrin's goal of getting humans to Mars.
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