Donald Fagen Sues Walter Becker’s Estate Over Control of Steely Dan
The lawsuit, filed in California, demands that Becker's widow abide by a buyout clause signed by the original members in 1972.Photo: ABC Music News Steely Dan
Donald Fagen is suing the estate of Steely Dan co-founder Walter Becker over what he claims is an unlawful attempt to wrest control of the group in the wake of Becker’s death, according to a report by THR.
Fagen’s claim stems from a stipulation in a 1972 buyout agreement signed by the band’s five original members stating, according to the lawsuit, 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, now the sole remaining officer of Steely Dan, expected that clause to activate when Becker died on Sept. 3. 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.”
Besides the Becker estate, the suit names as a defendant Nigro, Karlin, Segal, Feldstein & Bolno, the L.A.-based firm that serves as the band’s accountant and business manager. The firm also represented Becker and currently represents his widow, Delia Cioffi. According to suit, the letter from Becker’s estate “further demanded that Becker’s widow be appointed as a director or officer of Steely Dan. The letter claims that the estate is entitled to 50% of Steely Dan.”
Fagen is demanding that the estate recognize the 1972 buyout agreement and relinquish control of the band’s website, steelydan.com. He also wants a full accounting of NKSF&B and damages “in excess of $1 million.”
Shortly after Becker died of esophageal cancer, Fagen released a moving statement and vowed to keep Steely Dan active and embarked on a brief fall tour. During those shows, he played a Becker original, the rarely performed “Book of Liars.”