Bill Gross and his neighbor-turned-nemesis, Mark Towfiq, faced off in civil court for the first time this week after a dispute between the two Laguna Beach, Calif., residents exploded into the press. The proceedings offered the public the first concrete glimpse into the feud between the two extraordinarily wealthy belligerents, and its gensis. As it turns out, the battle that drove Gross to blast Mariachi music and the theme from “Gilligan’s Island” at such intense volumes that it “drowned out the traffic from the nearby Pacific Coast Highway” all started with a multimillion-dollar sculpture purchased by Gross.
According to Bloomberg, the statue was a 22-foot-long blown glass sculpture by artist Dale Chihuly, and belonged to Gross. Mark Towfiq, Gross’s neighbor, was annoyed by the statue, and apparently filed a complaint with the city.
It’s sometimes hard to feel sympathy for the megarich, and the way Towfiq handled this particular problem – by whinging to the town about his billionaire neighbor’s ugly statue – doesn’t reallly do him any favors in the PR department. The complaint infuriated Gross, who immediately responded by frequently blasting loud music from his $32 million home. It started with pop music – rap, hip hop – before escalating to mariachi and finally TV show theme songs.
The tactics only escalated after Gross received a citation for the alleged violations from the town. Here’s what one town officer said during her testimony.
Laguna Beach Police Officer Ashley Krotine testified Monday that she arrived at Gross’s home about 9 a.m. on Oct. 22, responding to a complaint about loud music. “When you say there was ‘loud Spanish music,’ was it louder than the ocean?” Jill Basinger, a lawyer for Gross, asked the officer.
“Yes,” Krotine said.
“How much louder?” Basinger asked.
“I couldn’t tell you,” the officer said.
“Louder than PCH?” Basinger asked.
“Yes, louder than PCH,” Krotine said.
Towfiq and his wife are suing Gross for harassment and emotional torment, with Towfiq’s lawyer claiming Gross and his girlfriend, former Tennis pro Amy Schwartz, had inflicted untold psychological damage and made their lives “a living hell”. Of course, Gross counter-sued, also claiming harassment, accusing Towfiq of being a “peeping Tom” who installed security cameras in an effort to sneak peaks at Schwartz when the two are out skinny dipping in their pool.
“Enough is enough,” Gross said 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.”
Oh, and Gross also noted that “somebody” apparently threw a rock at his sculpture, causing damage that necessitated a $50k repair bill.
The trial will resume Nov. 16.