The sad story of Steely Dan, following the death of Walter Becker, seems to be getting sadder.
Steely Dan cofounder Donald Fagen, who said after Becker’s passing that he wanted to keep the Steely Dan legacy alive, is now embroiled in a legal spat with his late bandmate’s estate. Last week, he filed a lawsuit against the estate, with his lawyers claiming that Becker’s widow had demanded 50% ownership of Steely Dan, which would run counter to an agreeement signed by Becker and Fagen in 1972. That agreement specified that if a member of the group quit or died, the remaining members would buy back all that member’s stock shares. Since Becker and Fagen were the last remaining owners, that would mean that Fagen would be the sole remaining stockholder.
Becker’s family has issued a response, with their lawyers saying Fagen’s suit is “riddled with half-truths and omissions.” They also claim that Fagen had sent a demand letter to Becker’s estate the day after he died; if that’s true, it would be callous, at the very least. Quoth the lawyers for Becker’s estate:
“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.”