Vicky Cornell, the widow of Chris Cornell, has filed a new lawsuit against the surviving members of Soundgarden, Variety points out. According to court documents viewed by Pitchfork, Vicky Cornell claims that she was offered less than a $300,000 buyout by the band’s remaining members: Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron, and Hunter Benedict Shepherd. The complaint, which was filed yesterday (February 16) in a United States District Court in Seattle, refers to the buyout offer as “a villainously low figure.” Cornell seeks a judicial valuation of Chris Cornell’s interest in Soundgarden’s assets, including merchandise and future touring revenue.
The lawsuit alleges that Soundgarden’s buyout offer was not in good faith, and that the proposed figure “does not amount to the royalties that Vicky received from Soundgarden’s master recordings in 2018 alone.” The complaint added that Soundgarden made their buyout offer to Cornell after receiving an offer from a music investor, who offered to purchase Soundgarden’s master recordings alone for $16 million.
Cornell’s complaint states that she was forced to file the lawsuit after making two counter-offers to the band. On December 17, 2020, she counter-offered Thayil, Cameron, and Shepherd $4 million each for their collective interests in Soundgarden. The band subsequently rejected the offer, stating that they had no interest in it “because these interests represent their creative life’s-work.” Cornell then offered each member $7 million, which they rejected.
The suit claims that 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 thatcould mint brand new Soundgarden hits.”
Because Vicky Cornell and the remaining members of Soundgarden cannot agree on Chris Cornell’s interest in the band’s assets, Vicky Cornell seeks a judicial determination of the buyout price.
Vicky Cornell’s attorney Marty Singer offered the following statement to Pitchfork:
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. They received a third party offer to buy just a portion of their interests for 16 million dollars, 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).
A representative for Soundgarden wrote:
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 buy-out offer of the Estate’s interests in Soundgarden calculated by respected music industry valuation expert Gary Cohen.
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.
In December 2019, Vicky Cornell sued the remaining members of Soundgarden over missing royalty payments. Last February, the band filed a response, stating that the recordings tied to those royalties are property of the band.