Gunther's Millions true story: How much is world's richest dog worth?
Netflix's latest documentary looks at the story of the world's richest dog – but is there a hoax behind this hound?
Warning: This article contains full spoilers for Netflix documentary Gunther's Millions.
Netflix has a penchant for producing documentaries on stories that you just couldn't make up and its latest series, Gunther's Millions, is no exception.
This Tiger King-esque four-parter tells the ridiculous story of Gunther, a German Shepherd said to have inherited $400 million from his countess owner in 1992 – a fortune managed by family friend Maurizio Mian.
From Madonna's beach house to football teams, the world's richest dog made headlines around the world for his high-profile purchases – however, as the documentary explores, the tale around this mongrel's millions isn't the most paws-ible.
Gunther's Millions looks at a much darker side to the narrative spun by Mian, which takes a strange turn into sex cults, scientific experiments and tax schemes – but what is the true story?
Here's everything you need to know about Gunther's Millions, including the dog's net worth and what actually happened with the rich rover – and final warning: there are big spoilers for the Netflix documentary ahead.
Who is Gunther the dog?
Gunther III is a German Shepherd who was said to have inherited $400 million (£328m) from Countess Karlotta Liebenstein after her death in 1992.
Liebenstein reportedly appointed Maria Gabriella Gentili, a pharmaceutical entrepreneur and friend, to take care of the trust and Gunther after her death. However, it was her son, Maurizio Mian, who became the dog's caretaker and CEO of The Gunther Corporation.
"The friendship between Countess Karlotta and my family was very strong... to me, she was Aunt Carla," Mian says in the documentary.
Gunther III sadly died shortly after the Countess's death, and so his great-grandson, Gunther VI, inherited his fortune.
According to Mian, Liebenstein was left heirless after her son (also called Gunther) died by suicide at the age of 26 and so made her dog Gunther III her heir – however, the circumstances around this story, which made headlines throughout the '90s and early 2000s, turned out to be thoroughly untrue.
As explained in the documentary, the millions inherited by the dog were not originally owned by the Countess – they were actually the fortune of Gentili, whose company The Gentili Institute was incredibly successful after developing a drug that was effective in treating bone disease.
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The institute was sold to US pharmaceutical company Merck and to avoid being hit by Italian taxes, as previously reported in the Italian media. Gentili placed the money in Lichtenstein, with Mian telling the documentary: "To avoid taxes, my mother, for a long time, had been bringing all the earnings related to our company to Liechtenstein.
"But this was against Italian law. In Italy, in the late '80s, there was a huge investigation into undeclared money kept abroad."
According to Mian, the family decided to hand over the money to their friend, Countess Liebenstein, who was a German national, to stop it being affected by Italian taxes. When the Countess became ill, Mian said that she and Gentili decided to name her dog as the inheritor and Gentili as the curator of the trust, making it legitimate by choosing a lawyer to be the trustee in the Bahamas, where "there's no tax on the income that's earned by the trust offshore", according to Jack Blum, a lawyer who contributes to the documentary.
However, in episode 3, after the documentary reveals that they couldn't find any proof of the Countess existing, Mian reveals that Karlotta Liebenstein was not actually a real person. "She was not exactly Karlotta Liebenstein, she was not exactly as I have, you know... She was not a Countess. She was an avatar."
According to Carla Riccitelli, Mian's ex-wife and a representative of The Gunther Trust, the woman in photographs that Mian claimed was the Countess was actually one of his aunts. As for the Countess Liebenstein's son, the documentary reveals that he was also not a real person and that it was Mian who struggled with depression.
As for who the dog Gunther was, the original dog was owned by Mian's ex-girlfriend Antonella Signorini and was used by Mian for publicity purposes.
How much is Gunther the dog worth?
Gunther the dog was said to be worth around $400 million (£328m) after Mauricio Mian claimed that he inherited it from his owner, Countess Karlotta Liebenstein.
However, the docuseries shines a light on the story, proving that it's actually a hoax with the fortune coming from Mian's mother, pharmaceutical entrepreneur Maria Gabriella Gentili, while the dog actually belonged to Mian's ex-girlfriend Antonella Signorini.
"As far as I know, my dog has inherited nothing," Signorini said on an Italian talk show, shown in the documentary.
"The person who created the story of the dog was mainly interested in generating publicity. Why my dog? Because I had a close relationship with the person who invented this fairy tale. My dog was used as a circus clown."
What was The Gunther Corporation?
While the story around Gunther ultimately turned out to be a hoax, Mian did begin various ventures in The Gunther Corporation name, claiming that there were several rules to the trust.
As stipulated by the rules of the trust, the first beneficiary was Gunther III and the second was the Gunther Group, "a show musical group formed from boys and girls operating around and performing with [Gunther]".
Mian approached Lee Dahlberg to be the spokesperson for Gunther and hired 27 people to work for the dog, giving him the best lifestyle possible. He also asked Dahlberg to form a musical group called The Burgundians, consisting of Michelle Mainoni, Christopher Lewinski, Mian's wife at the time Carla Riccitelli and Dahlberg – however, the project took a slightly sinister turn.
Through the Gunther Corporation, Mian also purchased Madonna's house for $7.5 million in 2000, which became the home of Gunther and The Burgundians and while they were meant to become a musical group, their choreographer Maxidus said in the documentary that they didn't have any "talent" and that he was never given a song to work with. "And then I just knew... it was fake."
Mian recruited a casting director to continue looking for beautiful people to join the house, requesting for Gunther boys to be "young, good-looking, vigorous, well-built and finely balanced", while the girls should "look like Pamela Anderson, Victoria of Spice Girls" and "like the cover girls of today's stardom, but with jaunty buttocks".
Mian and his team began conducting behaviour studies on "happiness of the generation", with Michelle Mainoni telling the documentary: "What seemed really cool before kind of became weird. It turned out to be like this sex cult and it got a little bit twisted."
"I knew that the cameras were supposed to be filming these rehearsals, but then we had these people coming in with white lab coats watching us, studying the way we interacted with one another, studying how we were interacting with the dog," she added.
Dahlberg goes on to describe the house as a "wild, orgy-esque, Caligula-level situation" which morphed from "this glamorous, hedonistic lifestyle to more of, we were being watched 24-7".
After The Burgundians came to an end, The Gunther Trust took an even stranger turn when Mian set up The Magnificent 5, another group representing the trust, and claimed that Gunther the dog had given birth to a human baby girl, who would be the first child of the group. In reality, the child belonged to Mian's partner at the time and member of The Magnificent 5, Cristina Mian.
Aside from the scientific experiments and various Gunther Trust representatives, Mian also purchased boats, properties and football teams through the trust, including the Pisa football team. Gunther IV became the new owner, while Mian hired Italian porn star La Cicciolina to be the face of it.
Was Gunther the dog really cloned?
In the documentary, there's a brief reference to the original Gunther dog being cloned, with Carla Riccitelli, Mian's ex-wife and a representative of The Gunther Trust, saying that the team would often use a clone or double of Gunther to protect the original dog.
"Depending on where we were going, if we are not really secure about the place or the people around, we use a clone of the dog or a double of the dog," she said.
While there's a rumour that the original Gunther was cloned multiple times in order to continue the Gunther bloodline, with each new dog inheriting the fortune, this also proved to be false.
In a post-credits scene, Mian reveals that while he said that Gunther III was cloned, it was not true.
When asked why he said that, Mian replied: "It's interesting. The attendants would be shocked. 'Oh, they are cloning dogs!'"
Gunther's Millions is streaming on Netflix. Check out more of our Documentaries coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.
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