Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen is suing the estate of his late, longtime musical partner Walter Becker in an effort to maintain control of the group and its name, according to Rolling Stone and other media reports. At the center of the suit is a buy/sell agreement the part signed in 1972, the year the band formed, which stated that upon the death or departure of a Steely Dan bandmember, the group would purchase that member’s shares. By 1975 Steely Dan was effectively a duo, with Becker and Fagen accompanied by session musicians.
Fagen’s suit is apparently an effort to head off a move from Becker’s estate: He alleges that four days after Becker’s death from esophageal cancer on September 3, he received a letter that said: “We wanted to put you on notice that the Buy/Sell Agreement dated as of October 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.
“Fagen – 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,” the suit states. “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.”
Fagen is also suing Steely Dan’s longtime business management firm Nigro, Karlin, Segal, Feldstein & Bolno, claiming that the firm withheld information from him and “engag[ed] in other secretive behaviors.”
Fagen is seeking a ruling that will uphold the buy/sell agreement and require Becker’s estate to sell his shares to the group, along with damages.