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Widow of Chris Cornell Sues Soundgarden Over Buyout Offer

The widow of Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell sued his former bandmates in federal court, claiming that they made an “absurd” buyout offer for his stake in the band’s music.

(CN) — The widow of Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell sued his former bandmates in federal court, claiming that they made an “absurd” buyout offer for his stake in the band’s music.

Vicky Cornell says the remaining band members offered her less than $300,000, an amount she claims is “an infinitesimal fraction of the true worth of Chris’ interest in Soundgarden.”

“Before making their absurd offer, Soundgarden had previously received an independent third-party offer from a leading music investor for multi-millions more,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the U.S. Western District of Washington in Seattle, is the latest in legal fights between Cornell’s widow and band members. In 2019, she sued the band for allegedly unpaid royalties, a claim the band has denied.

In Tuesday’s lawsuit, she said the band’s offer is so low “that it even falls shy of royalties that Vicky received for a single year (2018) from a single revenue source (Soundgarden’s master recordings).” She added that the band members refused to hand over requested valuation documents to back up their “lowball offer.”

She is seeking a good faith judicial evaluation of Chris Cornell’s interest in the band, along with merchandising and future tours.

“A good faith valuation would account for the significant revenues to be earned from the Band’s merchandise sales and account for the lucrative, nostalgia-fueled projects that follow the passing of rock and roll icons – e.g., future tours using a replacement lead singer (as Queen did by substituting Adam Lambert for Freddie Mercury); posthumous concert appearances by a hologram of Chris (as Tupac Shakur, Michael Jackson, and Elvis Presley have profitably performed); and deep-fake renditions of Chris’ vocals drawn from extant recordings by artificial intelligence that could mint brand new Soundgarden hits,” the complaint states.

Cornell said in the complaint that she made two counter-offers to band members Matt Cameron, Hunter Benedict Shepherd and Kim Thayil for their shares in Soundgarden, the first for $4 million each and the second for $7 million. The band members refused the buy-out offers.

A spokesperson for the band said in a statement that the dispute is over their “life’s work” rather than money.

“As requested by the Estate of Chris Cornell and as required by the laws of the State of Washington, the surviving members of Soundgarden submitted to the Cornell Estate four months ago a buyout offer of the Estate’s interests in Soundgarden calculated by respected music industry valuation expert Gary Cohen,” the statement said. 

“Since then, the band members have continued to try to settle all disputes with the Cornell Estate and in their several attempts to settle, the band members have elected to offer multiple times more than the amount calculated by Cohen. This dispute has never been about money for the band. This is their life’s work and their legacy.” 

Cornell’s attorney, Marty Singer of Lavely & Singer, said in a statement that the band’s offer is all about “greed.”

“The band’s contention that this dispute is somehow not about the money for them is absurd and hypocritical. Of course this is about money and their greed, he said. “They received a third party offer to buy just a portion of their interests for $16 million, and yet subsequently offered to buy out Chris’ interest for a mere $278,000. 

“And then Vicky offered $21 million for their shares, which they turned down — not because they wanted to preserve their life’s work but because they know that they will make even more off of future exploitation of the music that Chris wrote and the legacy that he created (which has lined their pockets for years).”

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