Walter Becker's Estate Responds to Donald Fagen's Steely Dan Lawsuit

Estate says singer's lawsuit over ownership of band is "riddled with half-truths and omissions"

The estate of Walter Becker has responded to a lawsuit filed by his Steely Dan bandmate Donald Fagen over the ownership of the band Credit: Tim Mosenfelder WireImage

The estate of Walter Becker has responded to a lawsuit filed by his Steely Dan bandmate Donald Fagen over the ownership of the band following Becker's September 3rd death.

In Fagen's lawsuit, the singer 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 purchase 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."

In Fagen's lawsuit – which also sued the band's former business management firm and tour accounting company over "secretive behaviors" – the musician claimed that he received a letter from Becker's widow stating that, as director or officer of Steely Dan, she is entitled to 50 percent ownership of the band. He also accused the Becker estate of not relinquishing control of the Steely Dan website.

However, the Becker estate rep added "the misrepresentation that his widow, [Delia Becker] initiated any litigious action is simply untrue." The estate also said they were "disappointed" that Fagen opted to file the lawsuit on the day before Thanksgiving.

The Becker estate claimed that they twice have neared a compromise with a pair of Fagen's legal teams, only for Fagen to fire both counsels. A third lawyer for the musician filed the lawsuit, they allege, without first reaching out to the Becker estate.

Following the publication of this article, Fagen's attorney Skip Miller released the following statement to Rolling Stone. "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 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."