The battle over who owns Steely Dan casts a dark shadow over a legendary band.
The response from the estate of Walter Becker to a lawsuit brought by Donald Fagen is not flattering, but neither are the facts of the estate battle. A representative from Becker’s estate told Rolling Stone that the lawsuit, filed after Becker’s death on September 3, is full of “half-truths and omissions.”
Rolling Stone’s recent article, “Walter Becker's Estate Responds to Donald Fagen's Steely Dan Lawsuit,” reports that in the lawsuit, Fagen accuses Becker's estate of reneging on a Buy/Sell Agreement that he and Becker agreed to in 1972. Under that agreement, one member of the duo would buy all shares of Steely Dan, if the other member quit or died.
"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," a representative for Becker's estate said in a statement to Rolling Stone.
"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 lawsuit also sued the band's former business managers and tour accounting company over "secretive behaviors." Fagen said he received a letter from Becker's widow stating that, as director or officer of Steely Dan, she is entitled to 50% ownership of the band. He also accused the Becker estate of not giving up control of the Steely Dan website. But a spokesperson for the Becker estate remarked that "the misrepresentation that his widow, [Delia Becker] initiated any litigious action is simply untrue." The estate claimed that they twice have neared a compromise with Fagen's legal team, only for Fagen to fire both lawyers. A third lawyer for Fagen filed the lawsuit, they allege, without first reaching out to the Becker estate.
The attorney representing Fagen released a statement to Rolling Stone after the article appeared. He says that Fagen only began proceedings because of actions taken by Becker’s estate, and maintains that the Buy/Sell agreement is as valid now as it was on the date it was signed. Expect litigation and more articles in Rolling Stone.
Reference: Rolling Stone (November 27, 2017) “Walter Becker's Estate Responds to Donald Fagen's Steely Dan Lawsuit”