Donald Fagen Sues Walter Becker’s Estate Over Steely Dan Ownership
Donald Fagen's attempt to continue Steely Dan in Walter Becker's absence has run into a road block.
Walter's widow Delia Becker apparently petitioned to become an officer of the incorporated Steely Dan partnership in a letter dated just days after his sudden death; she also demanded 50 percent ownership. Fagen says that the Becker family has taken control of the band's official web site, as well.
Fagen is now suing Becker's estate in an attempt to complete a long-planned buy out of the band name, as detailed in a 1972 agreement signed by all of the original Steely Dan members. The Hollywood Reporter says Fagen's complaint, filed today in Los Angeles County Superior Court, references an option for remaining members to purchase all shares belonging to any one who quits or dies.
The Beckers are apparently trying to block that legal route. "By the 2010s, Fagen and Becker were the only remaining shareholders and signatories to the buy/sell agreement," attorney Louis "Skip" Miller says in the suit. "Four days after Becker’s death, on September 7, 2017, the Becker defendants sent Fagen a letter stating that 'We wanted to put you on notice that the buy/sell agreement dated as of October 31, 1972 is of no force or effect.'"
Fagen is also suing Steely Dan's management firm, claiming Nigro, Karlin, Segal, Feldstein & Bolno is withholding financial records. In all, Fagen seeks roughly $1 million in damages, as well as a declaratory judgment stating that the buy/sell agreement is valid, making him the sole owner of the Steely Dan name. He's already returned to the road under the Steely Dan banner.
“This lawsuit is about a contract, the enforcement of that contract and the continuity of Steely Dan,” Miller told the Hollywood Reporter. “We think the contract is very clear on its face and we hope this lawsuit is resolved expeditiously.”