Bill Gross’s civil court battle with his neighbor, tech entrepreneur Mark Towfiq – the two men are suing one another for alleged harassment after a feud over a garden sculpture spiraled out of control – continued this week, with Towfiq telling the jury (since that’s what this has come to) that he feared he was in for trouble as soon as he learned that Gross was interested in the home next door.
Describing Gross as an “angry billionaire with a short fuse,” Towfiq testified that an acquaintance working at Pimco had offered his “condolences” when Towfiq told him Gross might be his new neighbor, before regaling him with stories about Gross’s antics at PIMCO.
Gross’s lawyers cross-examined Towfiq as well as Patrick Boyd, identified in the Bloomberg report on the hearing only as the former owner of the home.
For those who haven’t been following the story, the two Laguna Beach neighbors are embroiled in a nasty feud with Towfiq suing Gross for harassment for allegedly blasting ear-splitting music from his state of the art sound system that reportedly drowned out the sound of the ocean and the Pacific Coast Highway.
Since being forced out of PIMCO, a firm he co-founded back in the 1970s, Gross has cultivated a reputation as a loose cannon who won’t hesitate to terrorize those whom he believes have wronged him. Court filings in his divorce told of the billionaire using fart spray and rotting fish to make a home he had shared with his ex-wife unlivable.
When Towfiq texted Gross to ask him to turn the music down, Gross reportedly replied that Towfiq must ‘drop the complaint’ about a yard sculpture Gross had installed, or else the nightly “concerts” would continue.
Gross’s lawyer, Jill Basinger, told Orange County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Knill that she aimed to prove Towfiq was “obsessed” with Gross and his girlfriend, Amy Schwartz, a former professional tennis player, “and has been stalking him at all hours.”
Basinger drew attention to the fact that Towfiq appeared to be ‘concerned’ about Gross moving in even before the billionaire had bought the property.
“I’d seen the news of how he’d treated his family, his employees,” Towfiq said, referring to the many reports about Gross (some of which were originally published by the Wall Street Journal). Basinger also brought up a lawsuit where another former neighbor had allegedly sued Towfiq, though apparently the neighbor had actually sued the city for granting Towfiq certain building permits. Towfig said when he notified Patrick Boyd, the previous owner of Gross’s home, about some construction related debris left behind, Boyd had warned him to clean it up because he didn’t want to piss off Gross.
“I had told him that he had left a bunch of pipes in the side yard and he said, ‘I don’t want an angry billionaire with a short fuse to be upset with me,’ or something like that,” Towfiq said.
In an affidavit filed with the court, Boyd said he was “alarmed” to learn that Towfiq had security cameras pointed at his backyard, which allowed him to spot Gross as he toured the property, long before he bought the house. “It was also a bit unsettling to learn Mr. Towfiq was keeping track of my guests in the backyard,” Boyd said in the filing. Towfiq insisted he only began taping Gross’s property after police suggested he “document” the loud music Gross allegedly played to terrorize him.
“Taking videos and pictures on my own property seems like a fundamental right,” he said.
Towfiq also revealed that he had been a PIMCO client for a few years before Gross left the firm, between 2008 and 2012. Testimony is set to continue tomorrow, but the fact that this case is still going on is almost as shocking as anything that’s been revealed so far. Gross is notorious for his puckishness and pigheadedness in legal disputes. It’s almost hard to believe this all started because of a garden statue.