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Walter Becker estate responds in Steely Dan dispute

By | Published on Tuesday 28 November 2017

Steely Dan

The estate of late Steely Dan member Walter Becker has hit back at his former bandmate Donald Fagen, who recently moved to enforce a 1972 contract that would give him control of the band’s business.

As previously reported, Fagen recently filed a lawsuit that explained how back in 1972 the then members of Steely Dan signed a band agreement that included a ‘buy/sell’ clause which meant that, if ever a member left the band or died, the other band members would have the right to buy the exiting member’s stake in the business.

According to Fagen’s lawsuit, only he and Becker still had a stake in said business at the time of the latter’s death in September. However, Becker’s estate is seemingly arguing that the ‘buy/sell’ agreement no longer applies, meaning it would retain a share in the band. Fagen’s litigation – which says the estate wrote to him shortly after Becker’s death insisting that the ‘buy/sell’ clause should not apply – is seeking to enforce the 1970s contract.

In a new statement, the Becker estate calls the lawsuit “unwarranted and frivolous”, insists the 1972 contract is no longer in effect, and dispute’s Fagen’s version of events with regard to what has happened since Becker’s death.

The statement begins: “We were disappointed to learn that Donald Fagen commenced a lawsuit against [the estate of] Walter Becker, his partner of 50 years, on the eve of Thanksgiving. 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”.

Hitting out at the lawsuit and Fagen himself, the statement goes on: “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 labours”.

The estate concludes: “Since Walter’s passing, we have endeavoured to achieve a compromise with Mr Fagen. 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”.

Responding to the response, Fagen’s lawyer Skip Miller told Rolling Stone: “Mr Fagen reluctantly took this step in response to certain actions of Mr Becker’s estate. 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 honouring, 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”.