Gross Called ‘Angry Billionaire’ With Short Fuse at Trial
(Bloomberg) -- Bill Gross’s California oceanside neighbor Mark Towfiq figured there might be trouble ahead when the Pacific Investment Management Company LLC co-founder was eyeing the house next door to his.
The seller of the home described Gross as an “angry billionaire with a short fuse,” and a money manager at Pimco offered his “condolences” when the tech entrepreneur told him Gross would be his new neighbor, Towfiq testified at a hearing in Santa Ana court Monday.
The two Laguna Beach neighbors are embroiled in a nasty feud, with Towfiq claiming Gross blasted music, including the theme to Gilligan’s Island, at all hours of the day to get him to drop a complaint about a glass sculpture in his yard. Gross claims Towfiq had been stalking him. They sued each other for harassment.
“Ha, ha, I am in trouble,” Towfiq said he texted Patrick Boyd, the man who was selling his home to Gross.
Most of Towfiq’s second day on the stand at the hearing was spent being cross-examined by Gross’s lawyer Jill Basinger, who told Orange County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Knill that she intended to prove that Towfiq is “obsessed” with Gross and his girlfriend “and has been stalking him at all hours.”
She asked Towfiq why he was so fascinated with Gross, prompting the tech entrepreneur to say that he was “concerned” that he would be his new neighbor.
“I’d seen the news of how he’d treated his family, his employees,” Towfiq said, referring to tabloid reports of Gross’s divorce that included claims from his ex-wife Sue that he left their multimillion-dollar home a smelly mess with dead fish placed in the air vents after more than three decades of marriage.
Basinger tried to portray Towfiq as litigious and confronted him about a prior lawsuit filed by a former neighbor. Towfiq testified the former neighbor had sued the city of Laguna Beach because it had granted him permits to build on the property and tried to get them reversed.
Before Gross moved in, Towfiq said he told Boyd about some construction material that was left behind on the property that needed to be cleared up.
“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 a court filing on Gross’s behalf, Boyd said he was alarmed that Towfiq had security cameras pointed at his backyard, which allowed him to spot Gross as he toured the property.
“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 wasn’t obsessed with Gross and his girlfriend Amy Schwartz. He said he began taping Gross’s property after police suggested he document the loud music.
“Taking videos and pictures on my own property seems like a fundamental right,” he said.
Towfiq also said he was a Pimco client from 2008 to 2012, and friends with a money manager there.
“He told me all sorts of stories about Mr. Bill, Mr. Gross,” Towfiq said. “He said something to me like ‘my condolences,’ so he was concerned for me.”
The hearing is scheduled to resume Wednesday.
The cases are Gross v. Towfiq, 30-2020-1165114-CU-NP-CJC, and Towfiq v. Gross, 30-2020-01165428-CU-NP-CJC, California Superior Court, Orange County (Santa Ana).
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