The ill-will between billionaire investor Bill Gross and neighbor Mark Towfiq over a $1 million garden sculpture all began when Towfiq rented out his home to the HBO series Ballers, court filings have revealed.
Gross, 71, who is known as the ‘Bond King’ and managed one of the world’s largest fixed-income funds, and his Laguna Beach, California neighbor Towfiq have been involved in a months-long legal dispute.
The two men have sued each other for harassment and each seek restraining orders against the other, with Towfiq claiming Gross deliberately blasted music, including the theme to Gilligan’s Island, at all hours of the day to force him to drop a complaint about a netting surrounding a glass sculpture on Gross’ property.
In the legal battle Gross has claimed Towfiq is a ‘peeping Tom’ who spies on him and his girlfriend and takes video and photos of them.
Now, court filings reviewed by DailyMail.com assert that the bad blood dates back even before Gross and his girlfriend Amy Schwartz moved into the home in 2019, when a huge production crew arrived with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson to film at Towfiq’s home.
The ill-will between billionaire investor Bill Gross (left) and neighbor Mark Towfiq (right) over a $1 million garden sculpture all began when Towfiq rented out his home to the show Ballers
Laguna Beach police officers are seen posing with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson outside of Towfiq’s home in May 2019, during a shoot for the HBO series Ballers
Gross and Towfiq are in the middle of a months-long legal dispute that is centered on this glass lawn scupture that’s worth $1million. The sculpture, created by renowned blown-glass artist Dale Chihuly, appeared last year and stretches nearly 10 feet in height
Gross’ attorneys say that Towfiq, ‘to attract the attention that he craves from celebrities,’ rented out the home to the HBO series for filming, and crews blocked Gross’ driveway for days as he and Schwartz were trying to prepare the home to move in.
‘The Ballers incident was the first unpleasant experience they had with the neighbor even before moving in,’ a source close to the Gross camp told DailyMail.com.
On Thursday, Towfiq testified in Santa Ana state court that his neighbors never complained about the Ballers shoot, and said he remained friendly with Gross and Schwartz for months after.
‘I just cannot imagine how that — four or five days of filming and potential parking issues — would create or morph into something like this, I just cannot imagine,’ said Towfiq, according to Bloomberg.
Schwartz told the court in a declaration that the production crew’s trucks lined the coastal highway outside their ritzy mansion, blocking access to Gross’s driveway.
‘Worse yet, the vehicles impeded the ability of our contractor to get to the house, which occurred just when we were trying to complete several projects in time for my birthday,’ she wrote.
‘The Ballers incident was the first unpleasant experience they had with the neighbor even before moving in,’ a source close to the Gross camp told DailyMail.com. Pictured, Dwayne Johnson as Spencer Strasmore in HBO’s Ballers
Towfiq claims there were no signs of hard feelings at the time, however, noting that Gross and Schwartz invited him to a Kenny Loggins concert in their backyard in September 2019, for Schwartz’s 50th birthday.
Towfiq testified that he was thrilled with the concert, even though, he claims, the musician’s crew trampled his lawn and ran cables over his property.
‘It was a live concert with Kenny Loggins,’ he testified. ‘My wife and I liked him. We grew up with that kind of music.’
Towfiq said he texted Schwartz to thank her for the concert invite, and read her reply aloud in court: ‘Hi Mark, thanks so much. I’m glad you guys enjoyed it,’ noting a smiley face emoji at the end.
Later on Thursday, Gross’ property manager took the stand to testify that it was he, and not the couple, who frequently played music in the home during the day, while he was there working.
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
Towfiq says the ‘gaudy’ netting and nighttime illumination ruin his seaside views
A Gross confidante says this picture shows how the net protects the fragile blown-glass sculpture from dangers such as falling pond fronds
On Wednesday, the legal back and forth had focused on what kind of music that was played on October 19 when Towfiq called police to complain about noise when neither Gross or his girlfriend Schwartz was home.
Earlier in the dispute, a local cop testified that Mariachi music blared from the home and it was so loud it drowned out the sound of the surf and road traffic.
On Wednesday during cross-examination at Santa Ana state court, Gross’ lawyer Jill Basinger asked Towfiq about the noise complaint and asked if Alba was Latino, prompting the judge to stop her.
‘What is the relevance of the type of music that was being played to this proceeding?’ Judge Kimberly Knill asked, according to Bloomberg.
Basinger replied, ‘Because when the house manager takes the stand, he will indicate that it was his music, and it is his preferred music, and it’s certainly not Mariachi music and that’s an offensive way of describing it.’
She says that because the music was in Spanish ‘it’s proof that it wasn’t played by the Grosses’ and that Towfiq’s ‘position is that it’s played to harass him by the Grosses.’
The homes of Mark Towfiq and Bill Gross are seen above in this aerial image
Basinger argued that Alba played the music simply because he liked it, not to pester Towfiq, and tried to portray Towfiq as prejudiced against the genre.
‘Do you find Spanish music, for instance, to be harassing,’ Basinger asked him Wednesday.
‘No, I actually have a large collection of Latin music. We listen to it all the time. I have no problems with any kind of music,’ Towfiq responded.
She then asked Towfiq why he didn’t reach out to Alba if he was bothered by the music when he already had the property manager’s phone number.
‘One of the reasons was there were all these lawsuits flying around. I just didn’t feel comfortable contacting anybody at this house,’ Towfiq replied.
In the legal dispute Towfiq has submitted cellphone videos showing a man who appears to be Gross dancing on his balcony as the theme to Gilligan’s Island plays loudly in the background.
A Gross confidante told DailyMail.com that the Gilligan’s Island theme has a special meaning to Gross and Schwartz, because the credits of the show were filmed across the water from another home they own in Newport Beach.
The source said the couple enjoys listening to the song, and did not intend to use it harass their neighbor.
The legal beef between the two men started with Gross installed a 22-foot-long glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly in the backyard of his Laguna Beach mansion and installed a large net over it after it was damaged.
Gross put up the net to protect the glass sculpture – which is valued at $1million – after it was reportedly ‘vandalized’ and suffered $50,000 in damage.
Gross’ life partner, former pro tennis star Amy Schwartz, said of the sculpture: ‘Since I have no children of my own, they are like my babies’
Towfiq filed a complaint with the City of Laguna Beach after he set up the net, calling it ‘unsightly’. The city inspected the property and sent Gross a letter on July 28 informing him that the netting, lighting and sculpture lacked the proper permits. The quarrel has only escalated since then.
Towfiq claims that Gross then blared music in retaliation and allegedly blasted rap, pop, and the TV theme songs for Green Acres and Mash at all hours of the day in a bid to get him to drop the complaint.
Officers responded to Gross’ address on separate occasions in August and October in response to complaints about loud music.
At Tuesday’s hearing Towfiq recalled how people had warned him about Gross’ fuse-like temper.
According to the Orange County Register, Towfiq told the court that a neighbor told him in 2018: ‘I wouldn’t want an angry billionaire with a short fuse living next to me.’
On Monday, Towfiq disputed Gross’ claim that he’s creepy and obsessive and exhibits ‘Peeping Tom behaviors,’ saying he doesn’t have any special interest Gross or his girlfriend.
‘No, I never thought of [Gross and Schwartz] as celebrities,’ Towfiq said.
In a statement, Schwartz said the dispute was ‘very upsetting’ to her because the sculpture was bought for her by Gross because her mother is ill.
‘Since I have no children of my own, they are like my babies. My mother, who has Alzheimer’s, and I pray to them and she enjoys looking at them because it’s her favorite color and makes her smile,’ she said in the statement.
Schwartz said that she and Gross are the ‘best neighbors’ because they are only at home for five days a month, five months out of the year.
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 (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’
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.