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Vicky Cornell sues Soundgarden over Band Valuation

| Feb 22, 2021 | Legal Update |

Soundgarden was a popular grunge band in the 80’s and 90’s, led by the late singer and rhythm guitarist Chris Cornell. Vicky Cornell has sued Soundgarden to ascertain a proper buyout price of her late-husband’s partnership. The lawsuit asks a judge to determine the worth of her stake in the band, based on both the value of Soundgarden’s master recordings and other band assets.

The latest dispute between Vicky and Soundgarden allegedly followed a third-party offer to purchase the band’s recorded music catalog for $16 million, a common industry practice and investment (with Bob Dylan’s music rights recently changing hands for hundreds of millions, for example) Vicky claims, however, that the band subsequently offered to purchase Chris’ interest “for the villainously low figure of less than $300,000.”

The Complaint states that this offer falls short of what she received in royalties for Soundgarden master recordings alone (e.g., not including any additional royalties for publishing rights). Additionally, Vicky claims that Soundgarden did not follow music industry custom in calculating the $278,000 valuation and that the offer is “riddled with methodological flaws, discounts valuable partnership assets, and disregards that, when an iconic performer of Chris’ stature dies, the value of the band increases.”

Lastly, the lawsuit claims that Soundgarden has repeatedly denied Vicky’s requests to access inventory and financial documents that would allow her to properly assess her inherited value of the Soundgarden partnership. Vicky alleges that a “good-faith” valuation would also consider “future merchandise sales and “nostalgia-fueled projects,” such as potential tours with a replacement singer, hologram concerts and “deep-fake renditions of Chris’ vocals drawn from extant recordings by artificial intelligence that could mint brand new Soundgarden hits.”

Soundgarden has twice rejected offers from Vicky to buy-out their partnership interests in the band and current band members responded to the latest lawsuit stating: “The buyout offer that was demanded by the Estate has been grossly mischaracterized and we are confident that clarity will come out in court. All offers to buy out our interests have been unsolicited and rejected outright. For more than a year, Soundgarden’s social media accounts have been hijacked; misleading and confusing our fans. Being a band from Washington State since 1984, we are proud of Soundgarden’s musical legacy, work and career. We look forward to completing the final Soundgarden album.”

Soundgarden stated that music industry valuation expert, Gary Cohen, calculated the Estate’s interest in Soundgarden. Yet, Marty Singer, a lawyer for Vicky, said in a statement to Rolling Stone, “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.”