News

The Royal Scam?

Legal battle over Steely Dan name in the wake of Walter Becker’s death

By Gary Graff
November 22, 2017

Steely Dan’s Walter Becker, or at least his legacy, is not resting in peace right now. The late guitarist’s estate is being sued in Los Angeles Superior Court by his Steely Dan co-founder Donald Fagen over ownership of the group’s name and trademark.

Fagen is citing a contractual agreement from the formation of the band in 1972 that states the group’s corporate entity buys all shares of any member who quits or dies. Fagen and Becker were the sole remaining signators on that agreement, and Fagen’s suit claims that on Sept. 11, four days after Becker’s death, the guitarist’s estate “sent Fagen a letter stating ‘We wanted to put you on notice that the Buy/Sell Agreement dates as of October 31, 1972 is of no force or effect” and positions Becker’s widow Delia as an officer and 50 percent stakeholder of Steely Dan.

Fagen is also seeking to wrest control of Steely Dan’s website from Becker’s estate, which currently operates it. Fagen, who’s continued to lead Steely Dan on tour without Becker, before and after his death, is seeking more than $1 million in damages and is asking the court to enforce the Buy/Sell Agreement and name him the sole owner of Steely Dan. Stay tuned…