Becker Estate Blasts Back

Battle over Steely Dan name and rights escalates

By Gary Graff
November 28, 2017

The estate of the late Steely Dan guitarist Walter Becker has responded to his longtime musical partner Donald Fagen’s lawsuit over ownership of the band name and rights.

Fagen, who co-founded Steely Dan with Becker, has sued the estate in Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming that by conditions of a 1972 agreement all shares of the band should revert to him. Fagen’s suit claims that the Becker estate informed him that the agreement “is of no force or effect” anymore and that Becker’s widow Delia was an officer and 50 percent stakeholder in the wake of his death.

The Becker estate’s response does assert that claim and puts the onus on Fagen for the impasse. The full statement reads:

“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.”