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The Battle For Steely Dan Escalates With Lawsuit

The ownership of the Steely Dan name has moved on to a lawsuit between co-founder Donald Fagen & the Walter Becker estate.Becker died of cancer on September 3 of this year at the age of 67, but his co-founder of the band Fagen has now resorted to a lawsuit to the Becker estate over the name of the band, the website, & the stocks of the band.

The original buy/sell agreement happened in 1972, which stated that if one of the two members quit or die the other would be allowed to buy out the other member’s shares in the band.

The lawsuit came down on November 22nd where Fagen claims the Becker estate is reneging on the original agreement because they believe it was null and Mrs. Becker should be appointed a director or officer of the band.

Fagen is requesting a mandatory purchase of all of Becker’s stocks, as well as control of the band’s website, SteelyDan.com, which is currently controlled by the Becker estate. The lawsuit is required for Steely Dan and Fagen to obtain a judicial determination that Becker’s shares must be sold to Steely Dan pursuant to the express terms of the Buy/Sell Agreement, so that Steely Dan and Fagen can go on as contemplated and provided by the Buy/Sell Agreement.

The Becker Estate has responded to the lawsuit:

“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.

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. 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.”

Details & source material here.