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Chris Cornell's Widow Asks Judge to Intervene In Dispute With Soundgarden

Chris Cornell and Vicky Karayiannis
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Chris Cornell and Vicky Karayiannis at the Los Angeles premiere of 'The Promise' held at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on April 12, 2017.

Chris Cornell’s widow Vicky is asking a federal judge to step in and decide the worth of the Soundgarden lead singer's interest in the band. Vicky, who serves as the personal representative of her late husband’s estate, says that the remaining members of the band -- Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron and Hunter Shepherd -- have severely undervalued her share, offering her “the villainously low figure of less than $300,000,” according to an 11-page complaint filed Tuesday (Feb. 16) in U.S. District Court Western District of Washington at Seattle.

Chris died on May 18, 2017 at the age of 52 while on tour with Soundgarden in Detroit, leaving his property – including his intellectual and personal property rights – to Vicky for the benefit of their two minor children.

Vicky said after she demanded the band buy out Chris’ interest in Soundgarden, they offered her $300,000 despite, she says, receiving a $16 million offer for their master recordings. In response, she said she counter-offered them $12 million for the band's collective interests, equaling $4 million per surviving band member, which they summarily denied in December. She said she later offered them $21 million for the band’s interests and that offer was also rejected. The four-member rock group never had a written partnership agreement, according to court papers.

She says filing this lawsuit was “necessitated by the self-serving and heartless actions of the remaining members of the band Soundgarden, who are seeking to rob from their former bandmate, Chris Cornell (“Chris”), his wife (“Vicky”), and their minor children, Chris’ legacy and life’s worth, which has made them millions of dollars.” Adding that “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.”

A band representative countered that “the band's 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 (music industry valuation expert Gary) Cohen. This dispute has never been about money for the band. This is their life’s work and their legacy.”

However, Vicky’s lawyer Marty Singer said in a statement that, “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.”

Singer said while the band “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).”

This isn’t Vicky’s only legal battle with the band. In December 2019, she filed a separate lawsuit against the band over unreleased material. Vicky claimed that Chris was the sole owner of certain unfinished songs, which were authored from their Florida home. In August, the court granted the remaining band members' request to dismiss the lawsuit from the Florida courts dues to lack of jurisdiction. The band successfully argued that Cornell worked on the album in Seattle and that state was a more appropriate forum. In August, that case was transferred to the Washington state federal court.