Who was Countess Karlotta Leibenstein? Gunther's Millions explained
The German aristocrat is said to have given millions to her dog Gunther – but who was she and was she real?
Warning: This article contains full spoilers for Gunther's Millions
Documentary fans are in for a treat thanks to the arrival of Gunther's Millions on Netflix – a four-part investigation into the world's richest dog that needs to be seen to be believed.
The German Shepherd, Gunther VI, lives in the lap of luxury and is said to have inherited $400 million from his late owner Countess Karlotta Leibenstein in 1992.
However, there's an even stranger side to the fortune – all of which is explored in the new docuseries.
But who was Countess Karlotta Leibenstein? And was she actually a real person? Here's everything you need to know about the figure who plays such a large role in Gunther's story.
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Who was Countess Karlotta Leibenstein?
Countess Karlotta Leibenstein is a mysterious figure behind Gunther III – a German Shepherd who made headlines after becoming the richest dog in the world.
According to Maurizio Mian, the handler of Gunther VI (Gunther III's great-grandson), the original dog inherited $400 million after his owner, Countess Karlotta Leibenstein, died in 1992.
After her son reportedly died by suicide at the age of 26, Leibenstein was said to have been left heirless, with Mian telling the documentary: "Her son was gone, she had no close relatives, and her husband had already died. She was alone."
Mian originally claimed that Leibenstein set up a trust, naming her dog Gunter III as the beneficiary, and placed Mian's mother, Maria Gabriella Gentili, in charge of enforcing the trust.
However, she passed the responsibility onto Mian, who became Gunther III's caretaker and went about ensuring that when Gunther died, his offspring or clone (yes, really) would become the new beneficiary.
Those who've seen the documentary, though, will learn that the story, which received a huge amount of publicity throughout the '90s and early 2000s, wasn't exactly true.
Mian later admits that Gunther's fortune actually came from his mother Gentili, who was a pharmaceutical pioneer. Through her company, the Gentili Institute, she developed a drug that was effective in treating osteoporosis and bone disease and went on to make millions.
In order to avoid being hit by Italian taxes, Gentili transferred the money to a bank in Liechtenstein in the name of the Countess, who was a German national.
"My mother, for a long time, had been bringing all the earnings related to our company to Liechtenstein. But this was against Italian law," he says in the documentary.
"The Countess was German, and my mother considered her a very close friend. In the end, the money was transferred in the name of the Countess. All the money in the bank in Liechtenstein was in her name. But the real owner was my mother."
As for how the dog came to inherit the funds, he explained that when the Countess became ill, she set up a trust for the dog, made Gentili the curator and appointed a Bahamian lawyer as the trustee.
However, it turns out that this new explanation of events wasn't accurate either.
Was Countess Karlotta Leibenstein a real person?
Despite being the backbone of the Gunther story, Countess Karlotta Leibenstein never actually existed.
After Gunther's Millions director Aurelien Leturgie explains that they haven't been able to locate death certificates or any record of Leibenstein or her husband existing, Mian reveals that she was just a character they came up with.
"She was not a Countess. She was an avatar," he said, while his ex-partner Carla Riccitelli explains that the supposed photographs of the Countess are actually of one of Mian's aunts.
"There was a woman that helped us for tax reasons," he said. "She was a German woman and a very good friend of my mother. So it was the perfect person to take control of the bank accounts and all the assets in Liechtenstein but she never existed with the name of Carlotta Liebenstein."
He added that the Countess's son was also a hoax and when asked why he made it up, Mien said: "He was maybe an extrapolation of myself."
As for Gunther the dog, in reality the original Gunther belonged to Mien's ex-girlfriend Antonella Signorini. "Maurizio immediately fell in love with this dog. He adored him. Basically he was our dog because we shared everything," she said.
Gunther's Millions is available to stream on Netflix. Looking for something else to watch? Check out our guide to the best series on Netflix and best movies on Netflix. You can also visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide, or our Drama hub for all the latest news.