A billionaire former bond trader once accused of putting dead fish in air vents to get back at his ex-wife is involved in a new stink — this time with his 31-year-old rocker son.
California financier Bill Gross is scrambling to thwart youngest child Nick Gross’s auction of five 1918 “Inverted Jenny” postage stamps, which could fetch up to $5 million ($US3.4 million) if they hit the block as scheduled this Friday, sources told the New York Post.
Mr Gross — a world-renowned stamp collector who even endowed a gallery at the Smithsonian Institution for stamp-collecting — claims he gave each of his three kids some of his priceless “Jennys’’ about seven years ago, telling them the stamps were to be kept as an inheritance for his grandchildren, a source close to the dad said.
The 24 postage stamps are some of the most coveted in the world thanks to a printing error that put the image of a Jenny biplane upside down.
Only one sheet of 100 was ever made before the error was discovered — and single “Jenny” stamps in good condition have fetched upward of $2.2 million ($US1.5 million) at auction.
Nick Gross, a musician who has produced songs for Wiz Khalifa, is now planning to peddle a block of four Jennys as well as a single of the stamp, through the auction house Spink.
He disputes that his dad ever put restrictions on selling them.
“There was never an agreement that the stamps would not be sold,” Nick Gross told the Post in a statement.
“This is another example of my father’s bad and vindictive behaviour, which is why I’ve had to distance myself from him.
“If he would like to have the stamps back, he is welcome to buy them at auction.”
The father and son have been estranged since Nick’s mother, Sue, filed for divorce from her husband in 2016, after more than three decades of marriage.
She claimed in court papers that her ex, who founded Pacific Investment Management, left their home in Irvine Cove, California, a smelly mess at the time, leaving empty bottles of “puke” and “fart” smells in the garbage and dead fish in the vents.
Mr Gross denied the accusation.
The billionaire, who has two other children from a previous marriage, was caught off guard last week when he learned through another collector that his son was selling the Jennys, the source close to his camp said.
Nick Gross was the drummer for the rock band Open Air Stereo, which was featured on MTV’s reality TV show Laguna Beach, and plays with another group, Half the Animal.
His dad was “exploring options’’ to keep the stamp sale from going through, the source said.
Bill Gross first came to stamp collecting as a child, when his mother gave him a book of stamps that would help him pay for college — only to find out later the stamps were worthless.
Since then, he’s become one of the most well-known stamp collectors in the world, having amassed a collection that included every stamp the US produced from 1847 to 1869, and five of the six known four-stamp blocks of Jennys, plus singles of the valuable stamp.
He has been selling off parts of his stamp collection since about 2006 and donating the proceeds to his charity, which is named after himself and his two children from his first marriage, Jennifer and Jeffrey.
But Mr Gross has had a sentimental attachment to the Inverted Jenny stamps.
“Never sell the Inverted Jenny. Keep the Inverted Jenny,” he told Bloomberg TV in a 2016 interview.
Still, he has parted ways with a few. In 2005, he bought a block of the Jenny stamps for about $4.4 million ($US3 million) — only to trade it for a single, rare Z-Grill stamp of Benjamin Franklin, only two of which are known to have been made.