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Walter Becker Estate Responds to Donald Fagen's Steely Dan Lawsuit

"We will vigorously defend against his unwarranted and frivolous case.”

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Walter Becker Estate Responds to Donald Fagen's Steely Dan Lawsuit

Last week, news emerged of a lawsuit filed by Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen against the estate of his longtime musical partner and group co-founder Walter Becker, who passed away on Sept. 3 from esophageal cancer. The suit was centered on a 1972 buyout agreement signed by the band’s five original members stating that “whenever a member of the band either dies or terminates his employment with Steely Dan, Steely Dan purchases all of that member’s shares of Steely Dan.” Fagen, who is now the sole remaining officer of Steely Dan, expected that clause to activate when Becker died. But four days later, the Becker estate allegedly sent him a letter declaring that “the Buy/Sell agreement dated Oct. 31, 1972, is of no force or effect,” and that Becker’s widow, Delia Cioffi, “be appointed as a director or officer of Steely Dan.”

Fagen demanded, among other things, that the estate recognize the buyout agreement and relinquish control of the band’s website, steelydan.com. On Monday, representatives for Becker’s estate officially responded to the lawsuit, saying in a statement that they believe the 1972 agreement “was not in effect at the time of Walter’s death.”

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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 (sic) 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.”

The statement goes on to say that the Becker estate was close to an agreement with Fagen, negotiated through Fagen’s counsel, but that Fagen suddenly fired the counsel. “While we regret Mr. Fagen’s latest actions,” it says, “we will vigorously defend against his unwarranted and frivolous case.”

Shortly after Becker’s death, Fagen declared his intention to “keep the music we created together alive as long as I can with the Steely Dan band.”

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