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Billionaire blared ‘Gilligan’s Island’ song on loop to ‘bully’ neighbour: lawsuit

Investment manager Bill Gross is shown at his office in Newport Beach, Calif., on Oct. 31, 2018.
Investment manager Bill Gross is shown at his office in Newport Beach, Calif., on Oct. 31, 2018. Paul Bersebach/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Bond billionaire Bill Gross has been accused in court of playing the Gilligan’s Island theme song on a loop to harass his neighbour, amid a bitter dispute between the two mansion owners in Laguna Beach, Calif.

The feud dates back to last year when Gross and his partner, former pro tennis player Amy Schwartz, installed a $1-million lighted glass sculpture outside their home. The sculpture by artist Dale Chihuly features rods and orbs of blown blue glass.

The sculpture was placed along the property line Gross shares with neighbour Mark Towfiq and his wife, Carol Nakahara, according to a lawsuit filed by the couple.

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A palm branch allegedly fell on the sculpture and caused $100,000 worth of damage over the summer, according to city emails obtained by the L.A. Times. Gross responded by putting up several large poles and netting to protect it from further environmental damage.

That didn’t sit well with Towfiq, who complained that it was blocking the ocean view from his own multi-million-dollar home. Towfiq claims he tried to discuss the issue with Gross on several occasions before filing a formal complaint with the City of Laguna Beach in June.

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The city found that Gross did not have the proper permits for the netting and lights around the sculpture.

Things escalated quickly after that.

Gross allegedly started blaring “loud music and bizarre audio records at excessive levels” outside Towfiq’s home, according to Towfiq’s lawsuit. The billionaire’s revenge playlist allegedly included the Gilligan’s Island theme, along with several other theme songs and popular music. He played these songs day and night, according to Towfiq.

The two couples filed duelling lawsuits against each other earlier this month. Gross and Schwartz sued on Oct. 13 and Towfiq and Nakahara filed their own suit on Oct. 14.

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Gross alleges that Towfiq has been “peeping” at him and his wife, and that he feels “trapped” in his own home. He’s urging the court to give him a temporary restraining order, according to court documents.

“Mr. Towfiq has harassed and invaded the privacy of Mr. Gross and his life partner Amy Schwartz,” Gross’s attorney, Jill Basinger, told CNN. “We reluctantly brought a complaint against the defendant because of his unneighbourly behaviour, which goes back many years within this community and with other neighbours.”

In his own filing, Towfiq alleges that Gross called the police on him and accused him of “inappropriately” recording video of them. Towfiq says he’d been recording the “harassing noise violations” coming from Gross’ property.

“Defendant William Gross is a 76-year-old billionaire used to getting his way no matter what. As proven by their behaviour here, Gross and his decades-younger-girlfriend, defendant Amy Schwartz, are bullies,” Towfiq’s lawsuit says.

It also cited a text message in which Gross allegedly demanded “peace on all fronts,” otherwise there would be “nightly concerts, big boy.”

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Schwartz described the dispute as “very upsetting” in a statement to the L.A. Times. She claimed the sculpture meant a lot to her because Gross bought it as a gift while her mother was ill.

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“Since I have no children of my own, they are like my babies,” she said in her statement. “My mother, who has Alzheimer’s, and I pray to them and she enjoys looking at them because it’s her favourite colour and makes her smile.”

Gross is worth $1.5 billion and is the co-founder of PIMCO, an investment management firm. He retired last year.

Towfiq, 56, is the CEO of Nextfort Ventures, a data centre development company. He says he and Nakahara were forced to stay elsewhere because of the noise from Gross’ home.

The couple were granted a restraining order on Oct. 16, CNN reports.

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The two sides are due for a hearing on Nov. 2, they told CNN. Gross has also been given until Nov. 16 to obtain the proper permits for his protective netting.

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Towfiq and Nakahara have been living at their home since 2009, while Gross and Schwartz have been spending weekends at their property since 2018, according to Towfiq’s filing.

Towfiq built the home after a long legal battle with a neighbour who opposed it for its blocking others from accessing the beach.

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Gross has also faced his share of legal battles. He departed PIMCO after a bitter split with the company’s executives in 2014, which ended with a settlement going to Gross’ family foundation in 2017.

Gross also reported divorced his second wife, Sue Gross, around that time. She accused him in court filings of waging a vindictive campaign against her by stinking up the home she won in the battle. Gross allegedly stink-bombed the place with the smell of vomit, farts and dead fish.

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