Billionaire bond king Bill Gross has denied playing the Gilligan’s Island theme song at deafening volumes to get back at his neighbor, who he accused of violating his privacy and being a ‘Peeping Mark’.
The 76-year-old financier’s legal battle against tech entrepreneur neighbor Mark Towfiq continued on Monday, as he took the witness stand during a hearing at a southern California court.
The dueling neighbors have been embroiled in a civil harassment trial since last summer, when Towfiq complained about the ‘unsightly’ netting Gross had installed outside of his Laguna Beach home.
Towfiq later accused Gross of trying to get revenge for his complaints by playing music at extreme volumes.
Billionaire bond king Bill Gross’s (pictured last week) legal battle against tech entrepreneur neighbor Mark Towfiq continued on Monday
Gross’s neighbor Mark Towfiq, pictured with wife Carol Nakahara on Monday, has accused Gross of harassing him by playing loud music at night
Gross on Monday denied the allegations, saying neither he nor his ‘life partner,’ Amy Schwartz, had engaged in such behavior, the LA Times reported.
He described Towfiq as ‘strange’ and ‘dangerous to approach’, claiming he had invaded his privacy by taking cell phone videos of the couple in their home.
‘We called him ‘Peeping Mark’,’ Gross told the court.
Towfiq had testified that those recordings were used to document the loud music coming from Gross’s house.
Amy Schwartz, a former professional tennis player, also took the stand on Monday, claiming the couple did play the Gilligan’s Island theme song but not loudly.
She explained the song had sentimental value to the couple, because of where the opening credits were filmed.
‘I love that song,’ she said. ‘It’s a very special song.’
During his testimony, Gross also addressed text messages he had sent to Towfiq, threatening to throw ‘nightly concerts’ unless there was ‘peace on all fronts.’
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
‘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.
Gross’s testimony comes after Towfiq rejected his offer to settle the case by making donations to charity.
He went on to donate $500,000 to an organization regardless, in a bid to shame his opponent into settling the case.
Gross announced that he was giving the money to food banks and other charities supporting COVID relief efforts around his Laguna Beach home.
The 76-year-old who founded one of the world’s largest money managers, Pimco, and is worth an estimated $1.5billion, told his neighbor that it made more sense to spend the money on charity rather than legal fees.
Towfiq has dismissed the $500,000 donation as a stunt, to save Gross’s reputation.
Towfiq’s lawyer Jennifer Keller described it as a ploy to avoid an appearance in California Superior Court, where he is set to testify in the coming weeks at a hearing to decide dueling restraining orders.
A judge is weighing whether to make the temporary orders permanent.
The homes of Mark Towfiq and Bill Gross are seen above in this aerial image
Gross installed the net to protect the fragile blown-glass sculpture from falling palm fronds
Towfiq testified at the end of November; Gross was due to testify last week but later said he had been exposed to people who tested positive for COVID, and so the hearing was delayed.
He made the offer of the $500,000 donation in a bid to end the legal battle on Monday, and on Thursday announced he had made it.
Gross issued a press release describing the donation as ‘a reasonable, mutually beneficial, public offer to my neighbor to settle our ongoing dispute and donate what we have spent so far, and will spend, in legal fees and court costs to Orange County foodbanks and other charities providing critical assistance in this time of need.’
Gross said he had calculated his legal fees and prospective expenses, and donated the cash instead.
‘I believed, and still believe, that our mutual resources would be better spent in the midst of a global pandemic assisting those in need rather than on lawyers,’ he said.
‘I also believe the limited resources of the court should be reserved for more urgent matters instead of a dispute among neighbors.’
Keller responded, on behalf of Towfiq: ‘This is just billionaire Bill Gross trying to buy his way out of accountability for his horrible behavior.
‘He is losing the trial badly and is literally on the eve of being cross-examined about his harassment and lies, which he is desperate to avoid.’
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
Sue Gross (left and with him, right) claimed her ex sprayed noxious scents around the home and even crammed dead fish into air vents, making her life ‘an unmitigated nightmare’ for several months
Towfiq has shown no signs of letting the long-burning row end.
Towfiq and his wife Carol Nakahara built their dream ocean-front home on land they had purchased in 2009, after winning a protracted legal battle with another neighbor who claimed the project would impede coastal access.
In 2019 Gross and his girlfriend, former professional tennis player Amy Schwartz, 51, purchased the neighboring $32million property next door and moved in.
The seller of the home described Gross as an ‘angry billionaire with a short fuse,’ and a money manager at Pimco offered his ‘condolences’ when Towfiq told him Gross would be his new neighbor, Towfiq testified.
There was tension between the neighbors from the start.
On the weekend Gross was due to move in, Towfiq had rented his home out to HBO to film an episode of the series Ballers, starring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.
Gross complained that it caused him significant inconvenience to have the television crews blocking his driveway.
Then, this summer, they began rowing about Gross’ $1million Dale Chihuly sculpture, 22ft-long with blue glass tendrils reaching 10ft into the sky.
Gross is pictured with partner Amy Schwartz (right) and attorney Jill Basinger (left)
Gross and his partner, former professional tennis player Amy Schwartz, installed the $1 million Dale Chihuly sculpture, which features cobalt-colored reeds stretching nearly 10 feet high, last year
Towfiq said he didn’t take issue with the sculpture until Gross began to install netting around it to protect it from ‘vandalism’ in July.
Towfiq described the netting as ‘unsightly’ and said it ruined his view of the ocean.
Gross allegedly responded to Towfiq’s 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.
Gross allegedly responded Towfiq’s (pictured) 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 two men later sued one another for harassment, with Gross claiming Towfiq is a ‘peeping Tom’ who spies on him and his girlfriend and takes video and photos of them.
Gross said he installed the net after the sculpture suffered $50,000 worth of damage.
Towfiq 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 complaint appeared to incense Gross, who proceeded to make his life a ‘living hell’.
Towfiq’s attorneys have called on Laguna Beach Police, who responded to a number of subsequent noise complaints.
Officer Wade Kraus said he responded to a call about loud music coming from Gross’ property at 2475 South Coast Highway at around 10:53pm on August 1.
Kraus described how he could hear the Gilligan’s Island theme song booming from Gross’ $32million cliffside mansion while standing inside Towfiq’s house.
‘Based on my personal opinion and training as a police officer that level of noise at that time was unreasonable,’ Kraus told Judge Kimberly Knill.
Fellow Laguna Beach officer Ashley Krotine offered similar testimony, who said she was summoned to Gross’ property more than two months later on the morning of October 22.
Upon arrival, just after 9am, Krotine said she heard 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
Towfiq has insisted he had no issues with the sculpture itself, rather his ire was struck when Gross installed protective netting was installed around it this summer
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
Towfiq said he also personally requested Gross turn the music down.
Gross reportedly responded in a text: ‘Peace on all fronts or well [sic] just have nightly concerts 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.
‘Defendant William Gross is a 76-year-old billionaire used to getting his way no matter what,’ Towfiq’s lawsuit states.
‘As proven by their behavior here, Gross and his decades-younger-girlfriend, defendant Amy Schwartz, are bullies.’
Gross and Schwartz filed their own lawsuit, accusing Towfiq of creepy and obsessive behavior, including installing cameras directed at their property and ‘peeping tom behaviors.’
Gross appears to have a history of unneighborly behavior.
He was accused in 2018 of spraying his $20 million 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 ex wife, 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.’