Billionaire Bill Gross testified that he wanted only to make “peace” with a Southern California neighbor complaining about loud music when he sent a text promising “nightly concerts.”
In what may be the pivotal moment in the fight between the warring property-owners, Gross took the witness stand in a Santa Ana court Monday to recount his dispute with Mark Towfiq, a tech entrepreneur who claims the billionaire began blasting loud music — including the theme song to “Gilligan’s Island” — after Towfiq complained about netting that covered a million-dollar sculpture in Gross’s yard.
When Towfiq texted Gross’s partner Amy Schwartz to turn down the music at 11:45 p.m. on July 31, Gross responded, writing: “Peace on all fronts or we’ll just have nightly concerts Big Boy.”
Under questioning from Towfiq’s lawyer, Chase Scolnick, Gross explained his reasoning for the text. He insisted loud music was never played, contradicting prior testimony from Towfiq and Laguna Beach police who said they heard loud music coming from the billionaire’s home.
“We were having arguments because Mr. Towfiq was taking pictures of Amy Schwartz and us and invading our privacy,” Gross said. “When I wrote this message, I was trying to solicit a friendly ‘peace’ environment in which he would stop taking pictures and stop peeping into our backyard in our pool.”
Gross said he viewed Towfiq’s behavior as “dangerous,” adding, “We called him ‘Peeping Mark.’”
Each of the neighbors wants a restraining order, with Towfiq seeking to end the music. Gross and Schwartz want the judge to order Towfiq to stop harassing them by recording and photographing them.
Towfiq claims Gross began blasting the music after the tech entrepreneur filed a complaint with the city about the netting over the art.
Scolnick showed Gross a letter the billionaire sent the city asking it to reconsider an order that he remove the sculpture. Gross said he didn’t remember writing the letter, suggesting his lawyer may have wrote it.
“Do you have any problems with your memory, sir?” Scolnick said.
“At 76, I have less of a memory than at 26,” he said.
Scolnick asked if it were true that Gross “wasn’t happy” about Towfiq’s complaints.
“Happiness and sadness are not applicable to these types of situations at my age,” Gross replied. “I’m just happy to be standing.”
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