Monday, November 27, 2017

Steely Dan legal battle heats up

The estate of the late Walter Becker has responded to a lawsuit launched by singer Donald Fagen over the rights to control Steely Dan in the aftermath of the guitarist’s passing on September 3 from esophageal cancer.

Fagen and Becker’s widow, Delia, are reportedly at odds over the status of a 1972 Buy/Sell agreement that stipulated that if a member of Steely Dan quit or died, the band would purchase all of that member's shares in the group.

“We believe the agreement to which Mr. Fagen refers in his suit – drafted 45 years ago – was not in effect at the time of Walter’s death,” a representative for Becker's estate said in a statement. “Mr. Fagen's lawsuit, riddled with half-truths and omissions, misleadingly fails to state that the day after Walter died, Mr. Fagen had his lawyer send a demand letter to Walter’s estate, thus beginning a legal campaign against Walter’s family immediately after his death.

“The misrepresentation that his widow, Ms. Cioffi initiated any litigious action is simply untrue. In our view, Mr. Fagen is unfairly trying to deprive Walter’s family of the fruits of their joint labors.”

“Since Walter’s passing, we have endeavored to achieve a compromise with Mr. Fagen,”
continues the statement. “We were close to a resolution with his longtime counsel who he suddenly fired. We then negotiated in good faith with replacement counsel who Mr. Fagen also fired. Mr. Fagen’s third and current lawyer did not even attempt to contact us prior to filing a lawsuit.

“While we regret Mr. Fagen’s latest actions, we will vigorously defend against his unwarranted and frivolous case.”

In his lawsuit, Fagen alleges that he received a letter from Becker’s estate four days after the guitarist’s death stating that the 1972 deal was “of no force or effect", that Delia be appointed a director or officer of Steely Dan, and that she was entitled to 50 percent ownership of the group.

"Fagen, acting on behalf of himself and on behalf of Steely Dan, as its sole remaining officer and director,” reads the suit, “hereby exercises the mandatory provision of the Buy/Sell Agreement requiring Steely Dan to purchase Becker's shares."

The suit notes that in 2009, Becker "reaffirmed his commitment to the Buy/Sell Agreement and its validity" and that, by the 2010s, the pair were the "only remaining shareholders and signatories to the Buy/Sell Agreement."

"Mr. Fagen reluctantly took this step in response to certain actions of Mr. Becker's estate,” responded Fagen's attorney Skip Miller to the estate’s statement. “The main point is that the Buy/Sell agreement at the heart of the suit is as valid as the day it was signed. It's something Mr. Becker felt strongly about keeping in place and honoring, even during his years of illness.

“Mr. Fagen believes Mr. Becker's estate is entitled to receive all normal royalties on the songs they wrote together. But this case is about the future of the band, and we will vigorously defend the contract."

Formed in 1972, Steely Dan went on to sell more than 40 million albums worldwide and were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2001.

See also:

Steely Dan: Donald Fagen sues Walter Becker’s estate
Steely Dan: Walter Becker cause of death confirmed
Steely Dan: Donald Fagen cancels solo shows due to illness
Steely Dan announce first tour following death of Walter Becker
Search Steely Dan at hennemusic