After hours of testimony and weeks in the spotlight on a lawn art dispute, billionaire bond investor Bill Gross has had enough.
Shortly before testimony continued on Monday in a dispute over a million-dollar glass sculpture outside his Laguna Beach home, Gross called for an end to hostilities.
In an open letter to neighbor Mark Towfiq, Pimco co-founder – who has been accused of playing the theme song ‘Gilligan’s Island’ on repeat to annoy his neighbor – claimed their disagreement had spiraled out of control amid the pandemic in Classes. Both parties are seeking civil harassment orders and have sued each other.
“Those who know me and know my story also know that I do not back down on purpose from a fight,” Gross wrote. “But this situation has worsened disproportionately to the real issues at stake, which are insignificant compared to a world in which thousands of people die and suffer every day, while many more are out of work and seeking. desperately to pay the rent and to feed themselves. Their families. “
Gross called on both sides to “calculate all of our respective legal fees and court costs that we have already spent and will be spending in this battle on multiple fronts, to agree to end all hostilities and return the proceeds to the Orange County food banks and other charities providing essential assistance during this time of need.
The offer will not be accepted, said one of Towfiq’s attorneys.
“It’s only billionaire Bill Gross trying to shirk responsibility for his horrific behavior. He gravely loses the case and is literally on the verge of being cross-examined on his harassment and lies, which he is desperate to avoid, ”lawyer Jennifer Keller said in an email to The Times.
Gross and his partner, former professional tennis player Amy Schwartz, installed the 22-foot-long statue last year. The piece features cobalt-colored reeds stretching nearly 10 feet in height, swimming marlins and globes inspired by traditional Japanese blown glass fishing floats.
In a lawsuit that has gone on and off since last month, Towfiq said he had no problem with the lawn sculpture by blown glass artist Dale Chihuly. However, he testified that he was upset when a safety net was put in place this year and it rarely, if ever, descended. This prompted him to file a complaint with the town of Laguna Beach, which sent Gross a letter saying the sculpture and net were under license.
Towfiq testified that the letter to the town appeared to have triggered Gross, who harassed him by playing loud music at all hours, including and most importantly the theme song from the classic TV show “Gilligan’s Island”.
Towfiq’s attorneys are still taking their case to Orange County Superior Court and have called Laguna Beach Police, who responded to complaints about the loud music, to testify. Gross’s attorneys, meanwhile, have attempted to portray Towfiq as a voyeur, pointing to the cameras he set up in his home and the iPhone recordings he made of Gross, Schwartz and music.
Gross’s offer to end the litigation does not specify any conditions regarding the safety net. Keller called the offer a “selfish press release” and “a blow to stem the tide of negative press that the public exposure of Gross’s shares produced.
“If he really wanted to settle the matter, he would agree in writing to stop the illegal harassment, to remove the illegal ‘art installation’ and the football-like net, to apologize to Mr Towfiq for his terrible lies about him and to compensate Mr. Towfiq for the attorney fees that Gross forced him to spend, “she said.
Gross later responded that despite what he called Towfiq’s “vindictive and selfish” rejection, he intended to donate the equivalent of his expected legal fees to Laguna Beach and County charities. Orange by Friday.
“My offer to Mr. Towfiq was never intended to ‘buy’ my exit from this business. It’s about setting aside time in court for bigger disputes and providing something of value to our community, not for the benefit of one side or the other, except to end hostilities, ”said the Minister. release from Gross.
An audio expert testified for Gross on Monday that the iPhone used by Towfiq to record the theme song “Gilligan’s Island” and other loud music was not a reliable sound-measuring device. But before he could be cross-examined, the case was halted when a lawyer for Gross and Schwartz said she had just learned that the couple may have been exposed to the coronavirus by a “certain no one near “them.
The trial will resume on Thursday with remote testimony from a real estate agent and a former neighbor of Towfiq. Gross and Schwartz will not testify until they are tested for the coronavirus and complete quarantine. Even if they don’t test positive themselves, it is not certain that the case will end by the end of the year as it does not happen every day and the rest of the testimony will be given in person.
The case gained media attention because of Gross’s wealth and reputation. He retired last year with net worth 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 left in 2014 in an acrimonious split as yields fell and investors left. Gross also experienced a contentious divorce from his second wife, with both parties obtaining restraining orders.
Towfiq, 56, is an entrepreneur from Orange County who has worked in the tech industry. he endured a long legal battle to build his home after buying the property on a stretch of the South Coast Highway in 2009. A neighbor opposed the project, citing its proximity, effects on coastal access and other issues. This case was raised in the ongoing lawsuit by Gross’s lawyers in an attempt to prove that Towfiq is in dispute with its neighbors.
Gross and Schwartz bought the property next to Towfiq for $ 32 million in 2018, just a month after purchasing another beachfront property in Laguna Beach for nearly $ 36 million.