Update: In a new statement, Soundgarden responded to Vicky Cornell’s lawsuit, “The buyout offer that was demanded by the Estate has been grossly mischaracterized and we are confident that clarity will come out in court. All offers to buy out our interests have been unsolicited and rejected outright. For more than a year, Soundgarden’s social media accounts have been hijacked; misleading and confusing our fans. Being a band from Washington State since 1984, we are proud of Soundgarden’s musical legacy, work and career. We look forward to completing the final Soundgarden album.”
Vicky Cornell has filed another lawsuit against the surviving members of Soundgarden, this time asking a judge to settle a dispute over how much her stake in the band, inherited from the late Chris Cornell, is worth.
According to court documents obtained by Rolling Stone, the latest salvo in the ongoing spat between Chris Cornell’s widow and the rest of the band came about after Soundgarden fielded an offer from an unnamed third party looking to purchase the band’s recorded music catalog. The offer was reportedly worth $16 million, but Vicky claims the band offered to purchase Chris’ interest “for the villainously low figure of less than $300,000.”
To put that figure in perspective, the lawsuit claims the initial offer falls well shy of the royalties Vicky received in 2018 for Soundgarden master recordings alone (e.g. not including additional royalties from publishing). Furthermore, the lawsuit claims that Soundgarden came up with the figure through a “valuation that is inconsistent with industry custom and standard and riddled with methodological flaws, discounts valuable partnership assets, and disregards that, when an iconic performer of Chris’ stature dies, the value of the band increases.”
Marty Singer, a lawyer for Vicky Cornell, said in a statement to Rolling Stone, “The band’s contention that this dispute is somehow not about the money for them is absurd and hypocritical. Of course this is about money and their greed. They received a third party offer to buy just a portion of their interests for $16 million, and yet subsequently offered to buy out Chris’ interest for a mere $278,000. And then Vicky offered $21 million for their shares, which they turned down — not because they wanted to preserve their life’s work but because they know that they will make even more off of future exploitation of the music that Chris wrote and the legacy that he created (which has lined their pockets for years).”
In a statement provided to Rolling Stone, a representative for Soundgarden said, “As requested by the Estate of Chris Cornell and as required by the laws of the State of Washington, the surviving members of Soundgarden submitted to the Cornell Estate four months ago a buyout offer of the Estate’s interests in Soundgarden calculated by respected music industry valuation expert Gary Cohen. Since then, the band members have continued to try to settle all disputes with the Cornell Estate and in their several attempts to settle, the band members have elected to offer multiple times more than the amount calculated by Cohen. This dispute has never been about money for the band. This is their life’s work and their legacy.”
On Instagram, Cornell addressed the new filing in a post featuring a photo of Chris with their two children. “My truth stands stronger than your lies,” she wrote. “My will stands stronger than your motives. My love stands stronger than your hate.”
The lawsuit goes on to claim that Soundgarden has repeatedly denied Vicky Cornell access to inventory and financial documents that would allow her to properly assess the value of the Soundgarden partnership. Without that information available, the lawsuit claims she countered Soundgarden’s $278,000 offer with a $12 million offer to buy out the collective interests of Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron and Ben Shepherd for $12 million (or $4 million each). After the surviving members of Soundgarden allegedly rejected that offer, Vicky claims she raised the total to $21 million (or $7 million each), adding that number could increase if she was given the underlying financial information. Soundgarden allegedly rejected the second offer as well.
Due to the disagreements over the valuation, Cornell has asked a judge to determine a proper buyout price based not only on the value of Soundgarden’s master recordings, but other assets as well. The suit states that a “good-faith valuation” would also account for future merchandise sales and “nostalgia-fueled projects,” such as potential tours with a replacement singer, hologram concerts and “deep-fake renditions of Chris’ vocals drawn from extant recordings by artificial intelligence that could mint brand new Soundgarden hits.”