Investor Bill Gross accused of singing song “Gilligan’s Island” on repeat to torment neighbor
A dispute between King of Bonds Bill Gross and his next door neighbor over a million dollar outdoor sculpture turned into police calls at their Laguna Beach mansions, multiple lawsuits – and allegations that the billionaire investor sang the theme song “Gilligan’s Island” on a loop around the clock to annoy his neighbor.
Pimco co-founder and his partner, former professional tennis player Amy Schwartz, are accused by tech entrepreneur Mark Towfiq and his wife of harassment and intentionally inflicting emotional distress. The cause? A 22-foot-long blue glass installation – and an even taller post and netting structure erected to protect it – which Towfiq says blocked its view, prompting a complaint to the city.
It’s another in a long line of bitter feuds between affluent neighbors in Southern California’s most expensive neighborhoods, who sometimes find that with coveted address come adversaries with deep pockets and little peace of mind.
This time it’s a work of art that can be lit up at night and features cobalt-colored reeds stretching nearly 10 feet in height, swimming marlins and globes inspired by traditional fishing floats. Japanese blown glass. It was created by Dale Chihuly, an artist whose remarkable blown glass work adorns the bellagio ceiling hotel lobby in Las Vegas.
The lawn sculpture was installed in 2019 and on its own did not appear to cause any problems. The dispute began when Gross and Schwartz installed a netting this year to protect the artwork after it was damaged, according to legal documents and city records.
Gross and Schwartz in a lawsuit say more than $ 50,000 in damage, “apparently” caused by a stone throw, is evidence of a “growing campaign of vandalism”; Towfiq and his wife say it was probably damaged by something that fell on it.
Emails written to The Times by the City of Laguna Beach indicated that a person associated with Gross and Schwartz had told a code enforcement officer that the netting was temporary and needed to protect the sculpture from “trees and nature” and that a palm leaf caused $ 100,000. in damages.
Towfiq and his wife, Carol Nakahara, in their lawsuit claim that the net was initially removed intermittently, but then remained in place, with Gross and Schwartz avoiding attempting to resolve the issue. This prompted Towfiq to call the city, who inspected the property and sent Gross a letter on July 28 informing him that the net, lighting and sculpture did not have the proper permits.
Since then, the quarrel has escalated.
The neighbor’s lawsuit accuses the billionaire and his partner of playing blaring music at all hours, including the theme song “Gilligan’s Island,” of rap and pop, in an attempt to force him to drop the lawsuit. The couple said they had to take refuge twice either with relatives or in a hotel room. In an application for a temporary restraining order filed on October 15, which was granted, Towfiq quotes a text message allegedly sent to him by Gross after asking that the music be refused: “Peace on all fronts or else [sic] just have concerts every night my big boy. “
“The accused William Gross is a 76-year-old billionaire used to doing whatever he wants no matter what. As their behavior here proves, Gross and his girlfriend, the accused Amy Schwartz, are bullies.” , declares the Superior Court trial. filed by Towfiq and his wife.
Gross and Schwartz, 51, actually beat up their neighbors at the courthouse, filing their own lawsuit on October 13 and accusing Towfiq of developing an obsession with them, including setting up directed cameras on their property and “featuring voyeurs. “. In an application for a temporary restraining order filed last week that is pending, Gross said he had been playing music since moving into the property and felt “trapped in my own home”.
“The accused Towfiq seems to have a particular fascination not only with Mr Gross but also with Ms Schwartz, especially when the couple swims and therefore wears minimal or no clothing,” says the lawsuit, which accuses Towfiq of infringement. privacy, among other causes of action.
Towfiq, in his request for a temporary restraining order, said that after Gross and Schwartz complained to a police officer that he had inappropriately taped them, he told the officer he had made the videos on his property and only to record their “harassment noise violations” and the “trespassing of their unauthorized additions”.
Schwartz said the dispute was “very upsetting” to her because the sculpture, with its matching blue pieces, was purchased for her by Gross because her mother was ill.
“Since I have no children of my own, they are like my babies. My mom, who has Alzheimer’s, and I pray to them and she loves looking at them because it’s her favorite color and makes her smile, ”she said in the statement.
Schwartz also said that she and Gross were the “best neighbors” since they were only at home about five days a month, five months a year. She added that the noise from the freeway and the nearby ocean was much louder than their music.
Towfiq and his wife allege in their lawsuit that the harassment escalated to the point this month that loud music was played even when Gross and Schwartz were not at home, “apparently controlling their audio system. remotely ”.
Neighborhood disputes in the wealthiest corners of Southern California don’t just involve celebrities and artists, such as Jim belushi and Justin bieber – sometimes they also include business leaders.
A highly publicized case in 2017 trapped Jeffrey Mezger, Managing Director of KB Home, accused by neighbor and Bel-Air actress Kathy Griffin of an obscene rant filmed during an allegedly noisy backyard party. The KB Home board has announced that it will cancel its year-end bonus.
No one is anchoring Gross’s salary, regardless of the outcome of this dispute. The bond investor retired last year and is worth a estimated at $ 1.5 billion, according to Forbes. He made his big fortune at Pimco, the Newport Beach bond house he co-founded in 1971, but went into an acrimonious split in 2014 as yields fell and investors left.
Gross sued and accused a “cabal” of Pimco executives of repelling him because of their “lust for power, greed and desire to improve their own financial situation,” while Pimco called Gross excessive and disruptive force. Both sides reached an agreement in 2017 which paid $ 81 million to the Gross Family Foundation, with the company agreeing to honor its co-founder with various gestures, including creating an award recognizing its long history of philanthropy. Gross paid the foundation $ 19 million as part of the settlement and this year signed the Giving Pledge, which requires signatories to give up the majority of their wealth.
Around the same time, he went through an acrimonious divorce from his second wife, with both parties securing restraining orders and Sue Gross accusing him of handing him a separate Laguna Beach home in “utter chaos and disrepair. “including infusing it with vomit. and fart smells dispensed from spray bottles. In a mea culpa, Gross admitted in a Interview with the Financial Times last year he bought the spray at a drugstore and didn’t even know why he had done it, although he hinted at the strain of a divorce that had become “very ugly”.
Towfiq, 56, an Orange County businessman who owned a data center operator, is no stranger to defending his property rights in court. He bought the South Coast Highway property in 2009 in hopes of building his dream home in the exclusive Rockledge neighborhood. But first he had to endure a long legal battle with a neighbor who opposed the project, citing its proximity, its effect on coastal access and other issues. The neighbor tried to get city council and the California Coastal Commission to stop the project and took legal action, but Towfiq ultimately prevailed.
The house also raised eyebrows due to its design by prominent Modernist architect Mark Singer. Upon completion, however, the home – with its spectacular views, 2,000-square-foot covered patio, and infinity pool – received a laudatory writing in the Orange County Register. The newspaper praised Singer, who died in 2015, for “creating structures that harmonize with nature while making a bold and contemporary claim to the space they occupy.”
Gross made his own news when the Register declared in 2018 he had bought the neighboring property for $ 32 million, just a month after purchasing another beachfront property in Laguna Beach for nearly $ 36 million. A spokesperson said he jointly owned the Rockledge property with Schwartz.
The 10,000-square-foot home, dubbed Rockledge-by-the-Sea, includes a nearly 3,000-square-foot master suite, a gym, wine cellar, and commercial-grade elevator, according to the newspaper. Gross has other museum-quality works of art inside and outside the mansion, including one of Robert Indiana’s famous “Love” statues.
A hearing on Towfiq’s request to convert the temporary restraining order into a longer civil harassment order is scheduled for November 2. Meanwhile, Gross was granted an extension until Nov. 16 to apply for the appropriate permits, which a spokesperson said was underway.
Neither Towfiq nor Gross agreed to be interviewed, according to their representatives.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.