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Walter Becker’s Estate Responds to Donald Fagen’s Lawsuit Over Steely Dan Rights

Last week, in a sad turn of events for Steely Dan fans, the band’s lead singer and songwriter, Donald Fagen, sued the estate of his late co-conspirator, guitarist and songwriter Walter Becker, for sole ownership of the Steely Dan name and all rights associated with it. Central to the case is a Buy/Sell argument drawn up between Becker and Fagen, who eventually became the be-all-end-all of the Steely Dan operation, in 1972. The agreement was made when the band was incorporated, and stated that one member would buy the other member’s shares in the band if the other died, or even just quit.

This week, Walter Becker’s estate has offered their response to the suit to Rolling Stone, claiming that Fagen had moved to secure the band name and all attendant assets the “day after” Becker 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 told 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 statement claims that Fagen’s team filed the lawsuit after Fagen had fired two lawyers with whom the Becker estate had come close to reaching an agreement.

According to Fagen’s suit, Delia Becker, Walter’s widow, is attempting to hold onto Becker’s 50 percent share in the band. Fagen also alleges that the Becker estate currently has sole access to the band’s website. The singer is also suing the band’s business-management firm for allegedly withholding records from him.

Read the Becker estate’s full statement below.

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.