10…9 8 Dallas Capt. James Arthur Lovell is the Joe Btfsplk of the space world. His Apollo 13 mission had to be aborted when his craft, the Odyssey, suffered a loss of pressure. Back on Earth, his luck was little better. When Frank Sharp, the kingpin in the stock fraud scandal \(Obs., the astronauts with presents and praise and offers to “do something nice” to reward them for their giant leap for mankind, Lovell was the one astronaut who took full advantage of Sharp’s civic largesse. According to testimony before the Securities and Exchange Commission, Lovell met Sharp through Sharp’s in-laws, Barbara and John Masterson. The Mastersons are the godparents to Lovell’s youngest child and Barbara Masterson is the sister of W. D. Haden, the Sharp son-in-law who was up to his armpits in some of the old man’s shadier deals. Lovell was Sharp’s lifeline to the astronauts. In August of 1969, Sharp took Commander and Mrs. Lovell, John Osorio Fathers Kennelly and Aichediak and the Rev. Charles Allen, pastor of the First Methodist Church of Houston, on a junket to Rome. There Sharp was practically canonized by the Pope for his alleged kindnesses to the Jesuits. Lovell told the SEC he thought he had been Sharp’s personal guest. Actually, the tab had been picked up by National Bankers Life Insurance Co., another SEC defendant. BY SEPTEMBER, 1969, the kindly white-haired old man had taken such a personal interest in Captain Lovell and his family that he presented to Mrs. Lovell 25,000 unregistered shares of NBL stock worth, at that time, $390,000. “The terms of the offer was [sic] the delivery of the stock to me with the assumption that my sole obligation to Mr. Sharp for the stock was the stock itself,” Lovell told the SEC. “The idea was that sometime in the future had everything gone all right I could at the proper time sell the stock and repay his cost with the cost of the stock . . . I think Mr. Sharp’s major concern was the fact that he was looking out for the welfare of the family and not I but my wife accepted the delivery of the stock for safekeeping.” Lovell wrote out an IOU for the stock, but he kept it himself rather than giving it to Sharp. The “proper time” to return the stock came on Jan. 25, 1971, seven days after the mammoth stock scandal became public knowledge. SEC: “And what was your reason for relinquishing your custody at that time?” LOVELL: “Upon learning of the difficulties that Mr. Sharp had, many of which were not of my knowledge, I felt it in the best interest of the Government and 7 myself that I turn back to him the stock.” Lovell, a Naval officer, also told the SEC that he had “gone aboard” National Bankers Life in 1970 and he didn’t leave that sinking ship until Jan. 21, three days after Sharp and NBL were named defendants in the SEC suit. According to Lovell’s testimony, Sharp had expressed the hope that the astronaut might join in some business ventures when he retired from the space game. To give him a gentle launching into the business orbit, Sharp put Lovell on the board of directors of NBL at .a fee of $5,000 a month. \(The other directors were getting $1.told the SEC that he thought the payments were coming from Sharp personally. He said he later discovered that the checks were being paid by the Sharpstown Realty Company under the provisions of a management contract it had with NBL. \(The way Frank Sharp was wont to do business, all of his firms were one big happy family with money and securities flowing in and out of NBL and Sharpstown Realty and Sharpstown State Bank as casually as Dagwood gives money to Lovell was doing a lot of traveling in 1970 to the moon and to Europe and all and he didn’t make it to many NBL meetings. \(He did attend a session with State Insurance Commissioner Clay Cotten in September, 1970, at which the state board lit into NBL for keeping insufficient The astronaut received four months worth of $5,000’s and then, at a board meeting on Sept. 21, 1970, the board voted to abort the management contract. “I believe the matter came up at that time because it was an exorbitant drain on the company’s finances,” Lovell explained. He attended two more meetings before he resigned, receiving a paltry $200 for his efforts. LOVELL ‘FOLD the SEC he was incapable of understanding much that went on at the NBL meetings, but he got an inkling that things weren’t going too well. But, insurance just wasn’t his field, he explained. He didn’t even know what a take out commitment was when he was on the NBL board. SEC: “Have you since learned what the definition is?” LOVELL: “Well, I am learning slowly. My learning has ceased. I am going to take more technical areas from now on.” Sharp did have something in mind for Lovell that was closer to his area of expertise. More than once he asked the astronaut whether he would like to be president of Braniff International Airlines. Lovell said that would be A-OK. He insisted, however, that he was not familiar with a letter addressed to George Griffin of Ling-Temco-Vought and dated June 4, 1970. The letter makes a formal offer by Sharp, Lovell and Bob L. Jordan to buy LTV’s 56% of Braniff stock \(10,256,625 going to borrow $150 million from the Jesuit Fathers for the purchase, according to the letter. Sharp and Jordan each were to hold 45% and Lovell, 10%. The letter, which is now in the possession of the SEC, was not signed, and it may never have been mailed. Lovell said he didn’t sign it. “I couldn’t. It would have committed me to a hundred and twenty million dollars.” Sharp got NBL to insure the life of each astronaut on Apollos 12 and 13 for $100,000. “Mr. Sharp thought it would be a great public service if the insurance companies as a whole could get together as a public service and take it upon themselves to insure the crews of the space flights,” Lovell said. The industry as a whole never got in on the deal, but NBL did cover Charles Conrad, Pete Gordon and Alan Bean on Apollo 12 and Lovell, Fred Haise and Jake Swigert on Apollo 13. Sharp wanted to do even more for the astronauts, they being the major heroes of the western world. He wanted them to partake of a lucrative stock deal. So, while the Apollo 12 crew was still quarantined at the Manned Spacecraft Center with its moon rocks, Lovell called and told the astronauts about Sharp’s offer. The 12 crew and Lovell later rendezvoused with Sharp for lunch at the Kings Inn near NASA. Lovell left the meeting early, but as he remembers a later conversation with Conrad, Bean and Gordon: “They didn’t mention any guarantee or profit. They did mention that they probably could not incur any loss on the stock. . . . They September 10, 1971 7 6…5…4…3…2… $120,000,000.00
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