Former astronaut Buzz Aldrin has long mixed business and family, but now that the two are at odds, he has found himself embroiled in a nasty legal and familial battle.
Aldrin, 81, filed for divorce from his third wife and business partner of 23 years, Lois Driggs Aldrin, June 15, citing "irreconcilable differences."
Lois Aldrin and her daughter Lisa Cannon have played significant roles in developing Buzz Aldrin's brand, most notably through the trio's company, Starbuzz, which manages and promotes his image, appearances and endorsements.
Five days after Buzz Aldrin filed for divorce, Starbuzz sued him for breach of contract, alleging that Aldrin was trying to cut his estranged wife and step-daughter out of the family-run business, unrelated to the divorce filing.
Aldrin filed a counter-lawsuit last week against Starbuzz, claiming that he was tricked into signing away the rights to his name and image.
"The notion that, somehow, an American hero should be deprived from leading his life because of actions taken by his wife and her daughter is unconscionable," said Ronald Brot, Buzz Aldrin's divorce attorney.
But Lois Aldrin's attorney, Vicki Greene, said Buzz Aldrin is twisting the story.
"Buzz is making it out like Lisa ran off with something," Greene said. "He's trying to blame Lisa and, of course, Lois doesn't agree."
The development of Buzz Aldrin as a brand has included speaking engagements, books and clothing with his "Rocket Hero" logo, among countless other products. He appeared as a contestant on "Dancing With the Stars" and rapped with Snoop Dog in a song called called "Rocket Experience," meant to promote the space program. He has done endorsements for brands ranging from Tommy Hilfiger to Louis Vuitton luggage.
The Starbuzz LLC was founded in 2007 and Cannon has been running it, according to a complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in June obtained by the Courthouse News Service in Pasadena.
After the glory of being the second man to walk on the moon in 1969 died down, Aldrin struggled with two failed marriages, depression, alcoholism and spent some time as a car salesman, which he chronicled in his autobiography, "Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home From the Moon."
"Mr. Aldrin's life turned around when he met and married Lois Driggs Cannon," according to the Starbuzz complaint. "From the time they were married on Valentine's Day in 1988, Mrs. Aldrin began creating business opportunities for Mr. Aldrin."
Lawyer Greene said, "Lisa and Lois have been his biggest promoters the whole time. The brand developed after he got married."
Before the legal development of Starbuzz in 2007, Greene said, there was a similar entity called Starcraft that managed Aldrin's persona. The couple have been developing the business throughout their 23-year marriage and all profits were assigned as "community property," she said
"Buzz Aldrin transferred his intellectual property rights (including those derived from the day he walked on the moon, and books he wrote before and during the marriage, referenced in his complaint) to the community of Buzz Aldrin and his wife, Lois Driggs Aldrin," Greene wrote in a court document.
Aldrin's office said he has no comment on the matter.
The Starbuzz lawsuit also cites Aldrin's own writing about his wife in his autobiography:
"My petite little platinum blonde beauty of a wife suddenly turned into a public-relations dynamo. 'The business is Buzz!' she proclaimed, and indeed so it became. Lois encouraged me to do interviews and attend more social functions. She protected my reputation in every way, and just had a knack for helping me to be seen in the right places, at the right times. For my part, I loved it. I was the star performer, who just needed to show up on stage as the curtains parted, and did not need to concern myself with logistics."
Buzz Aldrin and Lois Aldrin each own 35 percent of Starbuzz, with the remaining 30 percent owned by Cannon. If the distribution were to remain the same after the divorce, Lois Aldrin and Cannon would own 65 percent of the company.
As the lawsuits and divorce proceed, Buzz and Lois Aldrin seem to have different attitudes about their circumstances, according to their attorneys.
"It's unfortunate that this happened so late in life, but it happened," Brot, Buzz Aldrin's attorney, said. "His goals are simply to conclude a dignified divorce, have whatever assets were accumulated during the marriage equally divided, make whatever appropriate provisions under that law that he's supposed to make for his wife and then get on with his life."
As for his wife, attorney Greene said, "She's 81 years old and getting a divorce. It's very upsetting. She loves Buzz. She doesn't want any of this to be happening."