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Bill Gross’ months-long legal fight with tech-CEO neighbor over garden sculpture draws to a close

A months-long legal battle between California billionaire Bill Gross and his tech entrepreneur neighbor Mark Towfiq drew closer to an end on Wednesday as the final court hearing concluded with the two men both asking a judge for a restraining order against the other.

Gross, a retired bond investor, and his Laguna Beach neighbor, Towfiq, have been at odds for months over a $1 million, 22-foot glass sculpture 76-year-old Gross had been keeping in the backyard of his home, of which he shares with former tennis pro girlfriend, Amy Schwartz.

Towfiq said he didn’t take issue with the sculpture until Gross installed soccer goal-like netting around it to protect it from ‘vandalism’ in July – a protective device he has described as ‘unsightly’ and claims it blocks his view of the Pacific Ocean.

Gross allegedly responded to Towfiq’s protests by playing loud music, including the theme to Gilligan’s Island, at all hours in order to get Towfiq to drop his complaint.

The two men later sued one another for harassment, with Gross claiming Towfiq is a ‘peeping Mark’ who spies on him and his girlfriend, surreptitiously taking video and photos of them while they swim in their pool.

Over the last few weeks, the two men have been airing their grievances against one another in Orange County Superior Court in a series of hearings, reprising their respective allegations of voyeurism and blaring sitcom theme songs.

Those tumultuous hearings came to a close on Wednesday, with both Gross and Towfiq requesting Judge Kimberly Knill issue a restraining order on the opposing party to limit what they can do on their property.

Towfiq requested the judge ban Gross and Schwartz from playing music at a volume that violates city code for three-years; Gross has asked that Towfiq be forbidden from taking any pictures and videos of him or Schwartz while they’re at home. 

Judge Knill said she needed time to consider both party’s arguments and ordered them to return on December 23 for a final decision.  

Billionaire bond king Bill Gross’s (pictured last week) legal battle against tech entrepreneur neighbor Mark Towfiq drew closer to an end on Wednesday

Gross's neighbor Mark Towfiq, pictured with wife Carol Nakahara last week, has accused Gross of harassing him by playing loud music at night

Gross’s neighbor Mark Towfiq, pictured with wife Carol Nakahara last week, has accused Gross of harassing him by playing loud music at night

Gross, who founded one of the world’s largest money managers, Pimco, and is worth an estimated $1.5billion, said he purchased his ocean view Laguna Beach mansion with life partner Schwartz to serve as a retreat to spend summer weekends when they weren’t at their main residence in Newport Beach.

The couple’s neighbors, former software company executive Mark Towfiq and his wife, Carol Nakahara, said they built their ‘dream home’ on the property in 2009, and hoped it would serve as a place they could host their extended family.

But instead, both couples now say they feel unsafe in their homes on account of the apparent harassment each claims to have fallen victim to at the hands of the other.

Towfiq claims Gross began harassing him with deafeningly loud music all all hours after he wrote a letter of complaint about the sculpture’s netting to the city, which resulted in Gross being informed he lacked the proper permits for the structure.

Gross, meanwhile, claims the feud pre-dates the sculpture and actually began in May 2019, when Towfiq allowed the HBO show Ballers to film on his property, blocking surrounding roads as Gross and Schwartz were attempting to move in. 

One of the lawyers involved in the dispute described the case’s culmination as ‘a neighbor dispute that has gone completely out of proportion,’ according to the Orange County Register.  

The pair have been involved in a bitter dispute since last year, when Gross installed an 'unsightly' netting around a lawn sculpture created by renowned blown-glass artist Dale Chihuly

The pair have been involved in a bitter dispute since last year, when Gross installed an ‘unsightly’ netting around a lawn sculpture created by renowned blown-glass artist Dale Chihuly

Apparently, Towfiq did not have an issue with the glass sculpture until Gross began to install elaborate netting (above) to protect it from 'vandalism' and environmental damage

Apparently, Towfiq did not have an issue with the glass sculpture until Gross began to install elaborate netting (above) to protect it from ‘vandalism’ and environmental damage

WHAT HAS MARK TOWFIQ SAID? 

Tech executive Mark Towfiq, 56, claims Gross started harassing him after he wrote a letter to the city in July complaining about his and Schwartz’s $1 million sculpture in their backyard. 

While he says he had no issues with the sculpture itself, he took a disliking to a net the couple installed around it this summer. 

He claims the net is ‘unsightly’ and blocks his view of the Pacific Ocean. 

Once the city informed Gross he lacked the proper permits for the netting, Towfiq says Gross began harassing him by blasting music at all hours – the including Gilligan’s Island’s them tune – to force him to withdraw his complaint. 

When he asked Gross to turn the music down, he responded: ‘Peace on all fronts or there will be nightly concerts, big boy.’

Towfiq claimed Gross and Schwartz would even turn the music on when they weren’t home.

Towfiq has asked the judge to issue a three-year restraining order to bar Gross and Schwartz from playing music at a volume that violates city code.

Gross and Schwartz installed the $1 million Dale Chihuly sculpture – which features cobalt-colored reeds stretching nearly 10 feet high – back in 2019.

Throughout a trial that has been held across the last month, Towfiq has insisted he had no issues with the sculpture itself, rather his ire was struck when Gross installed protective netting around it this summer.

Gross said he installed the net after the sculpture suffered $50,000 worth of damage. Towfiq complained the ‘unsightly’ net partially blocks his view of the Pacific Ocean.

He then lodged a complaint with the city of Laguna Beach, who in turn sent Gross a letter informing him the sculpture and netting lacked the proper permits.

Towfiq said the complained appeared to incense Gross, who proceeded to make his life a ‘living hell’ by playing music at all hours of the day and night, including the Gilligan’s Island theme tune and Mariachi music.

His lawyers read out in a court a text Gross sent to him in response to Towfiq requesting he turn the music down, in which he wrote: ‘Peace on all fronts or we will have nightly concerts here, big boy.’

Towfiq also alleged the couple were using remote controls to turn on the music, which he claims would play even when they were obviously not at home.

Two officers with the Laguna Beach Police Department who attended to noise complaint calls in recent months also testified during the hearing.

One officer, Ashley Krotine, said she’d arrived at Towfiq’s home on October 22 to hear Mariachi music blaring so loudly from Gross’ home that it was drowning out the sound of the ocean and the traffic on the Pacific Coast Highway.

During closing arguments on Wednesday, Towfiq’s attorney Chase Scolnick said he had no idea of the ‘wrath, revenge and harassment he would face’ for complaining about the sculpture’s netting.

‘They were furious,’ Scolnick said of Gross and Schwartz. ‘And almost immediately they began a calculated and cruel campaign to intimidate and harass.’

Bill Gross

Mark Towfiq

Gross (left) allegedly responded Towfiq’s (right) protests by playing loud music, including the theme to Gilligan’s Island, at all hours of the day in order to get Towfiq to drop his complaint. The two men later sued one another for harassment

The homes of Mark Towfiq and Bill Gross are seen above in this aerial image

The homes of Mark Towfiq and Bill Gross are seen above in this aerial image

Gross (pictured last week with partner Amy Schwartz, right, and attorney Jill Basinger, left) has accused Towfiq of being a 'peeping Mark'

Gross (pictured last week with partner Amy Schwartz, right, and attorney Jill Basinger, left) has accused Towfiq of being a ‘peeping Mark’

Towfiq's attorney said he  had no idea of the ¿wrath, revenge and harassment he would face¿ for complaining about the sculpture¿s netting

Towfiq’s attorney said he  had no idea of the ‘wrath, revenge and harassment he would face’ for complaining about the sculpture’s netting

WHAT HAS BILL GROSS SAID?  

Billionaire Bill Gross, 76, has admitted to playing music at his Laguna Beach home but not at the volumes Towfiq is claiming. 

He said he and partner Amy Schwartz listen to the music at reasonable levels as they swim in their pool. 

The couple also claim to love the Gilligan’s Island theme tune and listen to it regularly because they recently found out the show was filmed near their other property in Newport Beach.

They accused Towfiq of being a ‘peeping Mark’, surreptitiously filming them as they swim – a violation of privacy they call ‘creepy’.   

Gross said his feud with Towfiq predates the sculpture and stems back to when the tech CEO allowed HBO to film its series Ballers on his property in May 2019 without permission. He claims the production blocked surrounding streets as he and Schwartz were attempting to move in.

Gross and Schwartz asked the judge to bar Towfiq from using an iPhone, or any type of camera, to record them while they’re on their property.

Gross and Schwartz have meanwhile testified that they were simply playing music outdoors at a reasonable level while swimming in their pool. 

Of the frequent playing of the Gilligan’s Island theme song, the couple said it has become a favorite of theirs and holds a ‘special’ place in their lives, having recently learned the show was filmed near their Newport Beach home.

The couple’s attorneys also alleged that Towfiq’s efforts to photograph and video them was not about documenting noise complaints, as he had claimed, but instead a ‘creepy’ violation of privacy.

‘We called him “Peeping Mark”,’ Gross told the court during a hearing on Monday, before describing Towfiq as ‘strange’ and ‘dangerous to approach’.

Gross then addressed text messages he had sent to Towfiq, threatening to throw ‘nightly concerts’ unless there was ‘peace on all fronts.’

‘What I did was not a nightly concert, so I guess I didn’t make good on my promise,’ Gross said.

He also claimed he had installed the net at the center of the dispute to stop Towfiq from allegedly spying on him.

‘It is true they play music, they enjoy it, they dance to it,’ Gross and Schwartz’s attorney, Jill Basinger, told the court on Wednesday.

‘The purpose of their home is the outdoor living. It is an open floor plan. They listen to music, but there is no evidence the music is loud.’

Towfiq’s attorneys have specifically requested the judge issue a three-year restraining order to bar Gross and Schwartz from playing music at a volume that violates city code, and not to play music on outdoor speakers when no one is in their yard.

Gross and Schwartz, meanwhile, have asked the judge to bar Towfiq from using an iPhone, or any type of camera, to record them while they’re on their property.

Judge Knill said she needed time to consider both party’s arguments, and ordered them to return on December 23.

¿We called him ¿Peeping Mark¿,' Gross told the court during a hearing on Monday. He went on to describe Towfiq as ¿strange¿ and ¿dangerous to approach¿

‘We called him “Peeping Mark”,’ Gross told the court during a hearing on Monday. He went on to describe Towfiq as ‘strange’ and ‘dangerous to approach’ 

Towfiq¿s attorneys have specifically requested the judge issue a three-year restraining order to bar Gross and Schwartz from playing music at a volume that violates city code

Towfiq’s attorneys have specifically requested the judge issue a three-year restraining order to bar Gross and Schwartz from playing music at a volume that violates city code 

Before the hearing’s culmination, Gross had requested the two men end their legal dispute and donate their attorney fees to ‘charities providing critical assistance in this time of need’ in an open letter last week.

In his letter, Gross wrote: ‘Those who know me and my history also know I do not willingly back down from a fight.

‘But this situation has escalated far out of proportion to the actual issues at stake, which are petty in comparison to a world in which thousands are dying and suffering every day, while many more are out of work and desperate to pay the rent and feed their families,’ he continued.

Gross requested both sides, ‘calculate all our respective legal fees and court expenses that we have already spent and will spend on this multifront battle, agree to end all hostilities, and instead donate the proceeds to Orange County food banks and other charities providing critical assistance in this time of need.’

But Towfiq’s attorney, Jennifer Keller, fiercely dismissed Gross’ offer, insisting: ‘We don’t intend to participate in his publicity stunt.’

‘This is a desperate stunt to stem the tide of negative press the public exposure of Gross’s actions has produced,’ she said.

Hitting back, Gross’ attorney Jill Basinger told DailyMail.com Towfiq’s refusal to accept the settlement proposal in ‘a way that will benefit those in need during these difficult times proves our assertion that his claims are nothing more than a thinly veiled publicity stunt and money grab, and that he cares about no one other than himself.’

Gross later donated $500,000 to food banks and other charities supporting COVID relief efforts around his Laguna Beach home to spite Towfiq for refusing to settle the feud.

Towfiq, meanwhile, dismissed the $500,000 donation as a stunt to save Gross’s reputation. 

His former partner, Sue Gross (shown above), claimed that Bill Gross sprayed noxious scents around the home and even crammed dead fish into air vents, making her life 'an unmitigated nightmare' for several months

His former partner, Sue Gross (shown above), claimed that Bill Gross sprayed noxious scents around the home and even crammed dead fish into air vents, making her life ‘an unmitigated nightmare’ for several months

'When I was finally able to obtain access to this house, I was disgusted to see that Bill had left it in a state of utter chaos and disrepair,' a court filing from Sue Gross reads. 'I found empty spray bottles of "puke" smell and "fart" smell in the garbage'

‘When I was finally able to obtain access to this house, I was disgusted to see that Bill had left it in a state of utter chaos and disrepair,’ a court filing from Sue Gross reads. ‘I found empty spray bottles of ‘puke’ smell and ‘fart’ smell in the garbage’

This is not the first time Gross has been accused of employing juvenile tactics to torment his adversaries.

Gross was accused in 2018 of spraying his $20million marital home with fart spray after he was forced to hand over the keys to the mansion to his ex-wife as part of a divorce settlement.

His former partner, Sue Gross, claimed that he sprayed noxious scents around the home and even crammed dead fish into air vents, making her life ‘an unmitigated nightmare’ for several months.

‘When I was finally able to obtain access to this house, I was disgusted to see that Bill had left it in a state of utter chaos and disrepair,’ a court filing reads.

‘I found empty spray bottles of ‘puke’ smell and ‘fart’ smell in the garbage; the houseplants smelled foul and had to be replaced. The carpets were stained, and there was water damage throughout the house.’

Gross made his fortune running PIMCO Investment management, and Towfiq is a tech entrepreneur. Gross purchased the Laguna Beach mansion, dubbed Rockledge-by-the-Sea, for $32million in 2018.

Towfiq built his dream home on the lot next door after purchasing it in 2009 and winning a protracted legal battle with another neighbor who claimed the project would impede coastal access.


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