Vicky Cornell sues Soundgarden after receiving "villainously low" offer for her stake in the band

Chis and Vicky Cornell in 2017
(Image credit: Tara Ziemba / Getty Images)

It's a long story. In December 2019, Vicky Cornell, the widow of Chris Cornell, issued legal proceedings against Soundgarden.

Vicky sued the band, claiming they were withholding hundreds of thousands of dollars in royalties which were owed to her and her family – with the legal wrangle also involving copyright issues over seven audio recordings made by Chris before his death in May 2017.

In response, surviving Soundgarden members Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron and Ben Shepherd countersued Vicky and the Chris Cornell Estate, calling her complaint an “offensive recitation of false allegations and accusations." They also alleged she had used money raised by the I Am The Highway: A Tribute To Chris Cornell benefit concert for “personal purposes for herself and her family."

Cornell’s legal team threatened the Soundgarden members with legal sanctions and called their actions “shameful and objectively frivolous,” and the the band agreed to voluntarily dismiss the charity concert claim. 

Now Rolling Stone reports that Cornell is once again suing the band, claiming she had received a "villainously low" offer for her stake in the band. 

According to court documents seen by the magazine, the band received an offer from an unnamed third party looking to purchase Soundgarden’s recorded music catalog. The offer was reportedly worth $16 million, and Cornell claims the band offered to purchase her stake – inherited from her late husband – for the "villainously low figure of less than $300,000."

Cornell's lawyer Marty Singer told 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." 

The lawsuit also reveals that Cornell had offered the band $21 million for their own shares, which they turned down, said Singer, "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 the band told Rolling Stone, "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. 

"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 has asked the courts to determine a price for her assets that's not only based on the value of Soundgarden’s master recordings, but also future merchandise sales, potential tours with a new singer, possible hologram performances, and – get this – “deep-fake renditions of Chris’ vocals drawn from extant recordings by artificial intelligence that could mint brand new Soundgarden hits."

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.