The estate of Steely Dan rocker Walter Becker says it is “disappointed” after Becker’s bandmate Donald Fagen filed a lawsuit last week to keep ownership of the band.
Fagen, 69, sued Becker’s estate over a nearly 50-year-old buy/sell contract that, according to Rolling Stone, claimed “that if a member of Steely Dan quit or died, the band would purchase all of that member’s shares in the group.”
The contract was written up in 1972, just before the release of the band’s debut album, “Can’t Buy a Thrill.”
Fagen says he received a letter from Becker’s widow, Delia, shortly after Becker’s Sept. 3 death claiming that the contract “is of no force or effect,” and that she should be named a director or officer of the band and receive 50% ownership.
Fagen — who is also suing Steely Dan’s former business management firm for “secretive behaviors” — is seeking $ 1 million in damages, according to NPR, and wants the court to rule on whether or not the contract is still in play.
Becker’s estate hit back at Fagen’s filing Monday with a statement maintaining its belief that the contract was not in effect when Becker died.
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“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,” a spokesperson for Becker’s estate told Rolling Stone.
“The misrepresentation that his widow 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…. (Fagen) did not even attempt to contact us prior to filing a lawsuit.”
In response, Fagen’s lawyer Skip Miller reiterated his point that he and Fagen firmly believe the agreement remains valid all these years later.
“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,” Miller told Rolling Stone.
Becker and Fagen continued to tour together in recent years before Becker died at 67 while being treated for esophageal cancer.