Steely Dan co-founder Becker sues late partner’s estate

The estate of the late Walter Becker, co-founder of the band Steely Dan, is being sued by band mate Donald Fagen over an agreement the two made in 1972, months before their debut album Can’t Buy a Thrill was released. The written agreement stated that if one of the two died or left the band, the other would have the right to buy all the shares of Steely Dan. Representatives of the Becker estate claim the agreement “was not in effect “at the time of Walter’s death.” 

Attorneys for the Becker estate claims “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.”

Rolling Stone Magazine quotes a statement Fagen’s current lawyer released to them. “Mr. Fagen reluctantly took this step in response to certain actions of Mr. Becker’s estate. The main point is that the Buy/Sell agreement at the heart of the suit is as valid as the day it was signed. It’s something Mr. Becker felt strongly about keeping in place and honoring, even during his years of illness. Mr. Fagen believes Mr. Becker’s estate is entitled to receive all normal royalties on the songs they wrote together. But this case is about the future of the band, and we will vigorously defend the contract.”

Read the full statement from the Becker 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.”