Billionaire Bill Gross reportedly threatened that he would continue to blare out the theme song to Gilligan’s Island at all hours unless his neighbor withdrew a complaint about a $1 million sculpture in his backyard, a court heard Monday.
Gross, who is known as the ‘Bond King’, and his entrepreneur neighbor Mark Towfiq, have been involved in a months-long legal dispute that began when the billionaire installed a 22-foot-long glass sculpture in the backyard of his Laguna Beach mansion.
Towfiq said he didn’t take issue with the sculpture until Gross, 71, began to install netting around it to protect it from ‘vandalism’ in July, a protective device he has described as ‘unsightly’.
Gross allegedly responded 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.
The two men later sued one another for harassment. In the opening day of the hearing for the dueling complaints in Orange County on Monday, city official Ross Corona testified that he spoke to Gross and his 51-year-old girlfriend Amy Schwartz over the phone in August.
During the call, Corona said that Gross told him he would only turn music down to a reasonable level if Towfiq dropped his complaint.
Billionaire Gross, 71, (left) and his wife, 51-year-old former tennis pro Amy Schwartz, have been engaged in a complicated legal battle with neighbor Mark Towfiq (right) for some time
Gross’ lawn sculpture appeared last year, stretching nearly 10 feet in height, and was 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
‘Did they tell you they’d drop the music down to reasonable level if Mr. Towfiq dropped his complaint with the city?’ Chase Scolnick, a lawyer for Towfiq, asked.
Corona simply replied, ‘Yes’.
Two Laguna Beach Police Officers who responded to Gross’ address on separate occasions in August and October over complaints of loud music also testified Monday.
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’ $32 million 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 claims Gross began routinely playing obscenely loud music to make his and his wife’s lives ‘living hell’ after the contacted the city about his sculpture in July.
The dispute was spurred when Gross erected a white net around the glass sculpture – which is valued at $1 million – after it was reportedly ‘vandalized’ and suffered $50,000 in damage.
Towfiq then contacted the city, which 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 reportedly only escalated since then.
The homes of Mark Towfiq and Bill Gross are seen above in this aerial image
Towfiq says the gaudy netting and nighttime illumination ruin his seaside views
In his lawsuit, Towfiq said Gross’ incessant blaring of loud and obnoxious music for hours on end has forced him and his wife to seek refuge in a hotel.
When he asked Gross to turn the music down, Towfiq’s lawsuit claims Gross replied in a text message: ‘Peace on all fronts or well [sic] just have nightly concerts big boy.’
Towfiq also alleges that the couple are using remote controls to turn on the music, which he claims plays even when they are obviously not at home.
‘Defendant William Gross is a 76-year-old billionaire used to getting his way no matter what. As proven by their behavior here, Gross and his decades-younger-girlfriend, defendant Amy Schwartz, are bullies,’ Towfiq’s lawsuit states.
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.’
‘Defendant Towfiq appears to have a particular fascination not only with Mr. Gross but also Ms. Schwartz, particularly when the pair are swimming and thus wearing minimal, if any, clothing,’ states the lawsuit.
‘Enough is enough,’ Gross continued in a court filing. The billionaire says he ‘should not have to live tormented by the presence of cameras trained” on him because of “one man’s prurient obsessions.’
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.
Gross’ wife, former pro tennis star Amy Schwartz, said of the sculpture: ‘Since I have no children of my own, they are like my babies’
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 $20 million marital home with fart spray after he was forced to hand over the keys to the property 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.’
It continues: ‘A one of a kind art installation piece had been dismantled and removed. The remote controls for the televisions, drapes and other technology were all missing.’
The filing continues: ‘There were balls of human hair in the drawers. I even found dead fish and dirt stuffed into the air vents.’
His former partner, Sue Gross (shown above), 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 from Sue Gross reads. ‘I found empty spray bottles of “puke” smell and “fart” smell in the garbage; the houseplants smelled foul and had to be replaced’
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 $32 million 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.
Testimony is expected to continue on November 16 in Orange County Superior Court.