The estate of Walter Becker has responded to a lawsuit filed last week by Steely Dan bandmate Donald Fagen over ownership of the group and its name, saying the alleged agreement “was not in effect at the time of Walter’s death.”
The lawsuit was centered on a 1972 buyout agreement between Becker and Fagen that stated if one of them died or quit the band, the other would purchase all shares of Steely Dan, according to Rolling Stone.
Fagen claimed he received a letter from his musical partner’s widow, Delia Cioffi Becker, stating she is entitled to 50 percent ownership of the band.
The musician also sued the band’s former business management firm and tour accounting company over “secretive behaviors,” the outlet reports.
Fagen’s suit alleges that four days after Becker’s death from esophageal cancer, the singer received a letter that said: “We wanted to put you on notice that the Buy/Sell Agreement dated as of Oct. 31, 1972 is of no force or effect.” The letter also reportedly demanded that Becker’s widow, Delia, be appointed a director or officer of the group, and that she was entitled to 50 percent ownership of Steely Dan.
“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,” the estate said in a statement provided to PEOPLE. “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.” Becker’s estate has recently filed a motion to dismiss Fagen’s lawsuit, arguing that Becker’s death terminated the original buy/sell agreement because it is an event that will result in there being only one Steely Dan Inc. stockholder – Fagen – and under Section 5 of the agreement, that results in automatic termination.
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They continued, “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.”
The statement added that they’ve tried to “achieve a compromise” with Fagen, but he’s fired two lawyers and the third attorney did not contact them prior to filing the lawsuit.
“While we regret Mr. Fagen’s latest actions, we will vigorously defend against his unwarranted and frivolous case,” the statement concluded.
Two months after his death at 67 years old, Delia revealed that the guitarist was battling “an extremely aggressive form of esophageal cancer.” She penned a moving note to her late husband’s fanbase, detailing how his illness was originally detected at an annual checkup and how, in the end, “he just ran out of time.”
“Understandably, Walter wanted privacy during the course of his illness and he hoped for recovery,” she wrote. “He wanted to be able to return to the stage and once again perform for his fans. It’s important to me, as it was to Walter, that you all know he never intended to keep anyone in the dark about his condition. He just ran out of time much sooner than any of us thought possible.”
She continued, “The tsunami of tributes and remembrances that have followed Walter’s passing has been deeply moving. Even his ‘Number 1 Fan’ — me — would not have predicted anything close to the depth and breadth of public expressions from those whose lives were enriched by Walter — by his talent, his kindness, and his skill at inspiring some wicked fun. Thank you, everyone, for helping me and his loved ones know that Walter’s mark on the world — and on all of you — will not soon fade.”