'Nightly concerts, big boy'
A lawsuit alleges that billionaire investor Bill Gross played the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song on a loop to harass his neighbours after they filed complaints about his large art installation.
Gross, the co-founder of PIMCO — an investment management firm — who’s worth $1.5 billion, and his partner Amy Schwartz, a former professional tennis player, installed an art piece on the property line of their Laguna Beach home. Their neighbours, Mark Towfiq, a tech entrepreneur, and his wife Carol Nakahara complained to the city that the tall, light-up glass installation — and the netting that protects it — partially blocked their view of the ocean.
The city’s investigation found that the art installation, along with the protective netting, violated city codes and lacked the necessary permits.
In retaliation, Gross began to blare music at all hours of the day in an attempt to get his neighbours to drop their complaints. Now, litigation is working its way through the courts after Towfiq and Nakahara filed a suit claiming they were the recipients of a “targeted campaign of harassment and abuse.”
More bizarre still, Gross and Schwartz beat Towfiq to the legal punch, filing a lawsuit against him on Oct. 13, which accused him of “peeping” on him and his wife, asking for a temporary restraining order. On Oct. 14, Towfiq and Nakahara filed their own lawsuit.
“Mr. Gross is an entitled billionaire who is used to getting his way by bullying coworkers, family and neighbours,” Jennifer Keller, the attorney who represents Towfiq, told CNN Business. “Gross filed his own complaint merely as a pre-emptive strike after learning my clients intended to seek relief from the court.”
Naturally, Gross’ lawyer had a different view of events.
“Mr. Towfiq has harassed and invaded the privacy of Mr. Gross and his life partner Amy Schwartz,” said Jill Basinger, the attorney who represents Gross, to CNN Business.
In response to the musical harassment, Towfiq and Nakahara say they had to stay either with relatives or in a hotel room twice. They were granted a temporary restraining order against Gross and Schwartz on Oct. 15. In the application, Towfiq cites a text message sent to him after he asked Gross to turn down the music.
“Peace on all fronts or (we’ll) just have nightly concerts big boy,” read the message from Gross, according to the application.
The artwork that began all the trouble was installed in 2019. It was created by artist Dale Chihuly and features tall, ornate glass-blown reeds mixed in with fish and squat spheres. Problems began this year, after damages to the piece caused Gross and Schwartz to put up the tall protective netting around the sculpture. The netting was at removed but later put back up. According to Towfiq and Nakahara’s lawsuit, Gross and Schwartz refused to discuss and resolve the problem.
A hearing is set for Nov. 2 to determine if civil harassment restraining orders will be issued. Gross has been given an extension until Nov. 16 to obtain the proper permits for the sculpture. He is “in the process of getting it permitted,” Gross’ lawyers told CNN Business.
In 2014, Gross was fired from PIMCO, the firm he co-founded in 1971. Gross sued the company for wrongful dismissal in 2015. The case was settled for $81 million, which went to Gross’ charitable foundation.