Soundgarden and Vicky Cornell, the widow of frontman Chris Cornell, have been battling back-and-forth publicly since December 2019.
A number of lawsuits have been filed by both parties during that time. The subjects of these lawsuits have included back royalties, ownership of demo tapes and, most recently, social media passwords.
Below is an ongoing timeline of the legal issues between the surviving members of Soundgarden and Vicky Cornell.
(This timeline will be updated with additional information when updates are reported.)
Vicky Cornell files court documents accusing the band of withholding "hundreds of thousands of dollars" worth of royalties in an "unlawful attempt to strong-arm Chris' Estate into turning over certain audio recordings created by Chris before he passed away." These recordings in question were talked about publicly by guitarist Kim Thayil multiple times; he said during an November 2019 interview, "We definitely have another record in us. Stuff that's written, stuff that's demoed and recorded — certainly. All it would need is to take the audio files that are available...There shouldn't be [issues getting the record done] — there really isn't — other than the fact that we don't have those files… And I think that will happen. It would be ridiculous if it didn't. But these are difficult things — partnerships and property." Vicky, meanwhile, claims these recordings were for a solo Chris Cornell project, not a Soundgarden project.
Soundgarden filed a response to Cornell’s lawsuit claiming the recordings being withheld were actually the property of the band. They also denied Cornell's claim the band is withholding any royalties and stated they hadn’t received any royalties either until "the Partnership, by vote of the Remaining Partners, formally elects to make such a distribution." The band took issue with the fact that Cornell's lawsuit was filed in Florida, because the band has no connection to the state. Cornell's reasoning for filing in Florida is due to her claim that the aforementioned recordings were recorded in Chris Cornell's personal studio in the state back in 2017, and they weren't meant for any project with Soundgarden. The band, however, claim those recordings date back to 2015.
Soundgarden sued Vicky Cornell and the estate of Chris Cornell "accusing them of 'fraudulent inducement' for allegedly using revenue intended to be raised for charity for 'personal purposes for herself and her family.'" The charity funds in question stem from the January 2019 "I Am the Highway: A Tribute to Chris Cornell" concert. The lawsuit says Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron and Ben Shepherd had an "oral agreement" with Vicky Cornell to play the concert for free and that funds would then go to The Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation. However, the lawsuit then claims, "Vicky Cornell did not have the intention of using some or all of the revenue from the Cornell Concert for charitable purposes, but rather for personal purposes for herself and her family." Vicky Cornell denied these claims.
Vicky Cornell's attorney Martin Singer said in a statement to ‘The Hollywood Reporter,’ “When we threatened Soundgarden with the undisputed facts that their claims concerning Vicky Cornell and the Cornell Charitable Foundation were disgraceful and fabricated by requesting the court sanction them for their appalling conduct, they caved in and agreed to drop their claims. We were looking forward to having the court make Soundgarden and their attorneys accountable for their shameful conduct, but they instead backed off their meritless claims since they knew they would lose the Rule 11 motion, which is used in court to punish and deter parties and their attorneys from pursuing objectively frivolous claims."
Vicky Cornell filed a new lawsuit regarding Soundgarden buying out Cornell's stake in the band. Vicky claimed the three surviving members of Soundgarden offered her $300,000 to buy out Chris Cornell's share in the band which she says was a low ball offer and alleges the band had recently received an offer of $16 million for their masters. Vicky's new lawsuit would help establish a proper value of the assets and worth of Soundgarden. A rep for Soundgarden issued a statement saying, "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."
February 22, 2021: Soundgarden releases statement responding to new lawsuit from Vicky Cornell In a statement to the media, Soundgarden said, "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."
In a report filed by U.S. District Judge Michelle Peterson, there was not evidence Soundgarden was withholding “hundreds of thousands of dollars” of royalties from Vicky Cornell and the estate of Chris Cornell. Judge Peterson recommended two of the eight claims filed in Vicky’s original December 2019 lawsuit should be thrown out. Judge Peterson’s report was sent to the case’s presiding judge, Robert S. Lasnik, who will make the final decision.
Soundgarden's Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron, Ben Shepherd and their business manager Rit Venerus filed new documents in Washington state’s U.S. District Court alleging Vicky Cornell changed all of the passwords to their social media accounts and their official website. The band claims they've been locked out of their social media accounts ever since Cornell filed her first lawsuit against them in December 2019. Before this, the band's management company, Patriot Management, handled all of their social media channels. However, Patriot's relationship with the band was terminated in October 2019. After this, the band says they found out Patriot gave all of the social media and website logins to Cornell. Soundgarden is asking a judge to order Cornell to hand over the passwords or post to all applicable properties, “Soundgarden has temporarily suspended its official social media accounts due to pending litigation.”
Attorney Marty Singer said, "Ms. Cornell's forthcoming motion will expose the truth about Soundgarden's supposed social media accounts." Singer claimed Vicky Cornell created and grew the social media accounts and the band "displayed absolutely no interest in social media (unless it was to promote their solo projects.)" Singer added Soundgarden's lawsuit was filed "in order to maliciously defame Ms. Cornell, provoke her online stalkers (as Matt Cameron has done continuously) and to instigate third-parties to harass Ms. Cornell and her minor children." Meanwhile, former manager Ron Laffitte said, "During my six years working with Chris Cornell and Soundgarden, Chris and Vicky always controlled all of Soundgarden's social media accounts, both directly and through their own personal social media representative. At no time were any other members of Soundgarden involved, and this was true both before and after Chris died. Because of this, Soundgarden'sattempt to seek an injunction in connection with the social media accounts is surprising to say the least."
The agreement was announced in a statement via Soundgarden's Instagram account. The statement said, in part, "Soundgarden and Vicky Cornell, the personal representative of the Estate of Christopher Cornell, are pleased to announce that, effective June 15, 2021, they have come to a temporary agreement that will transfer the Soundgarden social media accounts and website to the band's remaining members, Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron, and Ben Shepherd and their managers, Red Light Management."