"I do not willingly back down from a fight," says billionaire Bill Gross, who's engaged in a legal battle with his Laguna Beach neighbor over a $1 million lawn sculpture. But even the Pimco co-founder says he's had enough of this "petty" disagreement amid a pandemic, per the Los Angeles Times. He's called for an end to hostilities, with future legal costs to be donated to charity. His nemesis's response: No way. Coverage:
- Tech entrepreneur Mark Towfiq, 56, claims he had no issue with the sculpture—a 22-foot-long, 10-foot-high glass design—when Gross and his partner, former pro tennis player Amy Schwartz, installed it outside his window last year. But then protective netting was added this year, blocking Towfiq's ocean view, per the Washington Post.
- Towfiq filed a complaint with the city, which informed Gross that he lacked the proper permits for the structure and netting, per the Times. Towfiq argues Gross has had it out for him since then. He complains Gross is harassing him by playing loud music at all hours, including the Gilligan's Island theme song on repeat.
- Gross, whose net worth is an estimated $1.5 billion, counters that Towfiq has been spying on the couple. There's also the suggestion that Towfiq might have damaged the sculpture featuring reeds, fish, and globes. Per the Post, the netting went up after the sculpture suffered $50,000 in damage. Gross and Schwartz claimed someone threw a rock at it.
- Both sides have filed lawsuits. The case has been playing out in Orange County Superior Court, which has heard past infractions. For example, Gross claims TV crews blocked access to his home in mid-2019 while filming an episode of HBO's Ballers at Towfiq's home, per Bloomberg. And Towfiq claims crews intruded on his property later that year while setting up for a private Kenny Loggins concert at Gross' home.
- On Monday, Gross suggested the parties calculate the amount "we have already spent and will spend on this multifront battle, agree to end all hostilities, and instead donate the proceeds" to charity. In an open letter, he wrote that the situation had "escalated far out of proportion to the actual issues at stake."
- But Towfiq's lawyer, Jennifer Keller, says her client will not accept the offer. Gross "is losing the trial badly and is literally on the eve of being cross-examined about his harassment and lies, which he is desperate to avoid," she tells the Times. "If he really wanted to settle the case he'd agree in writing to stop the illegal harassment, remove the illegal 'art installation' and soccer-goal-like netting, [and] apologize."
- Gross calls it a "vindictive and self-serving" rejection. He adds he's going to donate the equivalent of his expected legal fees to local charities regardless. He and his ex-wife, Sue, had donated $700 million to charity as of 2015, per Bloomberg. The couple later divorced, with Sue claiming her husband stalked and harassed her and trashed their $31 million home. That allegedly included putting fish in the vents, per Business Insider.
- The future of the case is up in the air anyway as Gross' lawyer informed the court on Monday that Gross and Schwartz may have been exposed to the coronavirus. The Times reports the case may extend into 2021 as "the remaining testimony will be given in person," following a remote hearing on Thursday.
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