Steely Dan Lawsuit: Fagen vs. Becker’s Estate

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Steely Dan in 1977: Walter Becker (l.) and Donald Fagen

It hasn’t even been three months since Steely Dan co-founder Walter Becker died, but now the band’s other mainstay—and current leader—Donald Fagen is taking the estate of his musical partner of four-plus decades to court. According to multiple online reports, Fagen is suing Becker’s estate to attempt to control the band’s legacy.

According to a report published by The New York Times, Fagen is fighting “for complete ownership of the band’s name and damages in excess of $1 million. The lawsuit says that a recent claim made by Mr. Becker’s widow, Delia Becker, for 50 percent ownership of Steely Dan breaches an agreement signed by the band in 1972.”

Rolling Stone further clarifies the issue in its report: “The crux of the suit is a Buy/Sell Agreement Fagen and Becker signed in 1972, not long before the release of their debut album, Can’t Buy a Thrill. The contract stipulated that if a member of Steely Dan quit or died, the band would purchase all of that member’s shares in the group.”

Related: Walter Becker’s final concert with Steely Dan

In addition to suing Becker’s widow and the estate, Fagen’s suit also names Steely Dan’s longtime business management firm Nigro, Karlin, Segal, Feldstein & Bolno (NKSFB). Fagen claims that NKSFB has been withholding information regarding royalty statements and tour revenue, and engaging in “other secretive behavior.”

Delia Becker, the widow of the guitarist, allegedly wrote to Fagen, “We wanted to put you on notice that the Buy/Sell Agreement dated as of October 31, 1972 is of no force or effect.” It further asked that she “be appointed a director or officer of Steely Dan, and that she was entitled to 50 percent ownership of Steely Dan,” according to Rolling Stone.

Fagen’s lawsuit retorts that he, “acting on behalf of himself and on behalf of Steely Dan, as its sole remaining officer and director, hereby exercises the mandatory provision of the Buy/Sell Agreement requiring Steely Dan to purchase Becker’s shares…This lawsuit is required for Steely Dan and Fagen to obtain a judicial determination that Becker’s shares must be sold to Steely Dan pursuant to the express terms of the Buy/Sell Agreement, so that Steely Dan and Fagen can go on as contemplated and provided by the Buy/Sell Agreement.”

The lawsuit seeks a judgment in Fagen’s favor and damages that could be more than $1 million.

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