According to TMZ, Chris Cornell's widow has sued the surviving members of SOUNDGARDEN over the buyout price for her stake in the band.
In the lawsuit, which was obtained by BLABBERMOUTH.NET, Vicky Cornell says Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron and Ben Shepherd offered her just $300,000 for Chris's share. This amount, she says, is far lower than the real value of the Chris Cornell estate's interests in SOUNDGARDEN, especially considering the fact that the band got an offer of $16 million from an outside investor for SOUNDGARDEN's masters.
The lawsuit reads: "The band members have knowingly offered only an infinitesimal fraction of the true worth of Chris' interest in SOUNDGARDEN and certain related entities by making a ludicrously low offer. And, they know it. Before making their absurd offer, SOUNDGARDEN had previously received an independent third-party offer from a leading music investor for multi-millions more (even though that offer covered only recorded music and did not include any other SOUNDGARDEN assets). Despite having this offer in hand, the band members offered Chris' wife and minor children a pittance. In fact, the band's offer is so low that it even falls shy of the royalties that Vicky received for a single year (2018) from a single revenue source (SOUNDGARDEN's master recordings).
"This is not the first time that the band members have sought to deprive Chris' minor children of the hard-earned fruits of his labor and talent. The band has already been sued once by Vicky for refusing to pay monies that they admit are owed to her and Chris' minor children.1 Now, Vicky, who wanted to avoid this action, has been forced to regrettably file suit based on the band's continuing pattern of unconscionable misconduct.
"In response to Defendants' disingenuous offer, on December 17, 2020, Vicky counter-offered defendants Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron, Hunter Benedict Shepherd four million dollars each — a total of twelve-million dollars (U.S. $12,000,000.00) — for their collective interests in SOUNDGARDEN and the SOUNDGARDEN Related Entities.
"On December 29, 2020, Defendants summarily rejected Vicky's twelve-million dollar offer, noting that the Surviving Band Members have no interest in selling their interests in the SOUNDGARDEN Partnership 'because these interests represent their creative life's-work' — a statement that both overreaches (because neither Cameron nor Shepherd were original members of SOUNDGARDEN) and overlooks (because the vast majority of the band's works — over 73% — were authored by Chris and because Chris' interest in the SOUNDGARDEN Partnership also represents Chris' 'creative life's work').
"In a final attempt to resolve this matter without judicial intervention (and without the need for yet another litigation), Vicky offered the Surviving Band Members seven million dollars each — a total of twenty-one million dollars ($21,000,000.00) — for their collective interests in the SOUNDGARDEN Partnership. Moreover, Vicky's offer expressly noted that, if the Surviving Band Members were willing to share the underlying information, her twenty-one million dollar offer may well increase further. The Surviving Band Members rejected the twenty-one million dollar offer and, once more, refused to share the underlying data.
"The Surviving Band Members' rejection of an offer of seven million dollars for each of their individual interests underscores the unreasonableness of Defendants' insulting offer for Chris' interests in the SOUNDGARDEN Partnership."
In response to the lawsuit, a SOUNDGARDEN representative told TMZ: "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."
The representative added: "This dispute has never been about money for the band. This is their life's work and their legacy."
The Cornell estate's lawyer, Marty Singer, fired back in a statement of his own, saying: "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)."
Cornell was found hanged in his room at the MGM Grand Detroit hotel in May 2017, following a SOUNDGARDEN show at the city's Fox Theatre. His body was found soon after he had spoken with a "slurred" voice to his wife by phone. The death was ruled a suicide.
In December 2019, Vicky filed a lawsuit against the surviving SOUNDGARDEN members, alleging the group owed Cornell's estate hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid royalties and the rights to seven unreleased recordings made before the singer's death in May of 2017.
Responding to Vicky's lawsuit, Thayil, Cameron and Shepherd claimed that they "don't have possession" of their "own creative work," and alleged that "Vicky Cornell has possession of the only existing multi-track recordings of the last SOUNDGARDEN tracks that include Chris Cornell's instrumental parts and vocals. All of the band members jointly worked on these final tracks, Vicky now claims ownership of the final SOUNDGARDEN album."
Thayil, Shepherd and Cameron initially accused Vicky Cornell of misusing funds from the January 2019 "I Am The Highway: A Tribute To Chris Cornell" concert. After being challenged by Cornell's attorneys with the threat of sanctions, SOUNDGARDEN withdrew that portion of its countersuit, while its lawyers wrote at the time that the band believes the claims "remain well-founded."
Photo credit: Andrew Stuart