Is there a millionaire dog?
Gunther’s Millions: The True Story Behind Netflix’s Rich Dog Docuseries
Netflix presents the true story behind the «millionaire dog.» Here’s what you need to know about the real life Gunther’s Millions.
By Tilly Pearce | February 4, 2023 |
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This article contains spoilers for Gunther’s Millions.
Netflix is always armed with a wacky true crime series, and Gunther’s Millions – the story of a supposed “millionaire dog” – is the latest tale they’ve added to the collection.
Based around a German Shepherd whose Countess owner leaves behind an untold fortune, soon things take a turn for the bizarre – with scientific experiments, a decades-old mystery and a German pop group somehow all getting involved.
Naturally, there is more to the story than meets the eye, and over the course of four episodes we’re left to find out just how easy it is to be taken in by money… and what lengths people will go to get some.
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Here’s the true story of Gunther, and his supposed millions…
The Truth About Gunther the Dog
The official story peddled to the masses goes like this – Countess Karlotta Lieberstein tragically dies in 1992. With no heirs, she leaves her multi-million pound estate to her beloved dog, Gunther III.
Gunther was named after the Countess’s only son, who died by suicide at the age of 26. As a result, the trust set up in Gunther’s name would be looked over by family friend Maurizio Mian, and among the stipulations was to create an experiment into the science of joy.
Gunther would live the richest life imaginable – becoming famous as a result of the inheritance. He would dine on steak and caviar meals, and be flown around the world for appearances on private jets. He would later take up residence in a Miami mansion previously owned by Madonna.
Turns out though, none of it was real. The Countess, her late son and even Gunther himself were all a part of an elaborate tax scam from Mian.
Mian, a wealthy heir to pharmaceutical company Gentili Institute, initially used his girlfriend’s dog in order to garner attention on an osteoporosis drug he was trying to push to the public. When interest on that dwindled, he later created the story of the Gunther and The Countess as a tax dodge, opening The Gunther Group trust fund that would then be “bequeathed” onto them.
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An unnamed family friend, who knew she was dying, initially took charge of the account to give the story more weight, leaving the “trust” to Mian’s mother Gabriella Gentili, in her will. She was not called Carlotta Liebenstein. When Gentili died, Mian took it over.
From that point on, Mian would use Gunther to dredge up publicity for his own financial and social gain. In the Miami mansion, he would hire models to become part of a “pop group,” but would ultimately use them in socal experiments in which he hoped to find the cure for depression.
He would encourage those involved (who had to adhere to a strict physical code including having “jaunty buttocks,” look like supermodels and be naturally beautiful) to engage in long hours of gym workouts, dance practice, and increased sexual activity. All of which he would film with cameras around the house and “report back to his team”.
At one point the group, named ‘The Magnificent Five’ (which was meant to be of five people but was largely a rotation of dozens) would even wear signature light up medallions around their necks. The medallions “monitored” their success in achieving physicality, popularity, spectacularity, wealth, and sexuality throughout their days.
Gunther was ultimately a publicity stunt in order for him to gain traction for his own work, while also providing a cosy tax haven which was later revealed in the 2008 Lichenstein papers. The experiment into depression seems more like his own personal mission after battling mental health issues of his own.
Mian even bred Gunther so he would have “heirs to the fortune”. By the time Gunther’s Millions is filmed, he’s on Gunther VI. Gunther VI is still under the ownership of Mian today, with a team of 27 people working for the trust – including a PR team who are happy to live a rich life in his name.
List of wealthiest animals
The list of wealthiest animals in the world include animals that have inherited or earned over 1 million U.S. dollars.
Through inheritance [ edit ]
Animals are not legal persons and cannot directly own property. Animals typically «inherit» money through a pet trust through which the money must be used for their care after the death of the owner. 
- Gigoo was a Scots Dumpy hen willed $15 million. She was owned by Miles Blackwell, a publisher of textbooks. 
- Tommaso is a black cat who lives in Italy and inherited $13 million. The cat was a stray that found its way into the home of Maria Assunta, a property magnate in Italy. When Assunta died at the age of 94, she willed her fortune to either the cat or an animal welfare charity that would look after it. It was decided after no suitable charity could be found that the money would be given to the cat, held in trust by Assunta’s nurse. 
- Blackie, considered the richest cat by Guinness World Records until 2018, inherited a $12.5 million fortune. 
- Conchita, a Chihuahua, was bequeathed $3 million plus an $8.3 million mansion in Miami by heiress Gail Posner. 
- Trouble is a dog that was owned by Leona Helmsley, to which she bequeathed $12 million in a will that disinherited her two grandchildren. A judge later amended the amount down to $2M.
- Flossie, a dog owned by Drew Barrymore, barked to alert her and then-husband Tom Green of a fire. She put her $1.3M house in trust for the dog to show her gratitude. 
- Tinker was a stray cat that was bequeathed an $800,000 home and a $226,000 trust fund. 
- Choupette was the cat companion of fashion magnate Karl Lagerfeld, and it is rumored that she was left at least part of Lagerfeld’s US$200 million fortune after his death in 2019. 
- Lulu, an 8-year-old Border Collie, inherited $5M in her owner’s last will. 
Through earnings [ edit ]
Some animals become «wealthy» as the result of entertainment, such as through acting on film or television, for advertising and marketing campaigns or as an Internet meme.
- Tardar Sauce, better known as Grumpy Cat, had an estimated worth of at least $1 million. 
- Olivia Benson (Taylor Swift’s cat) has an estimated worth of at least $97 million. 
Hoaxes [ edit ]
- Reportedly, Toby Rimes, a poodle, inherited $20 million from New Yorker Ella Wendel in 1931.  In fact it seems that no such bequest was made. 
- In 2021, the Associated Press and several other news organizations reported that a German Shepherd dog named Gunther VI inherited $400 million dollars from Countess Karlotta Leibenstein of Germany. The day after the Associated Press article, the New York Post published an article disputing the validity of the claim.  The Associated Press later removed the article from its website and published a new article admitting the story was a fabrication. 
See also [ edit ]
- List of individual cats
- List of individual dogs
- List of individual apes
- List of wealthiest families
- List of wealthiest historical figures
- The World’s Billionaires
- List of wealthiest religious organizations
References [ edit ]
- ^ Fox, Emily Jane (9 September 2015). «What Happens When Someone Leaves Millions to a Pet?». Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on 21 September 2020 . Retrieved 21 May 2019 .
- «World’s Richest Chicken — Millionaire Hen». 13 April 2016. Archived from the original on 10 April 2018 . Retrieved 9 April 2018 .
- «Tommaso, the Italian cat, inherits $13 million from owner Maria Assunta | Public Radio International». Archived from the original on 10 April 2018 . Retrieved 9 April 2018 .
- «Wealthiest cat | Guinness World Records». Archived from the original on 10 April 2018 . Retrieved 9 April 2018 .
- Perone, Tim (17 June 2010). «Heiress’ big $$ goes to the dogs». New York Post. Archived from the original on 31 August 2019 . Retrieved 31 August 2019 .
- ^ ab
- «Pets that inherited a fortune». MNN — Mother Nature Network. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016 . Retrieved 22 February 2016 .
- «Karl Lagerfeld’s cat could be his heir». BBC News. 21 February 2019. Archived from the original on 7 November 2020 . Retrieved 1 April 2020 .
- Thomas, Dana (21 January 2020). «What Happened to Choupette?». The New York Times. Archived from the original on 12 March 2020 . Retrieved 1 April 2020 .
- Beres, Nick (11 February 2021). «8-year-old border collie named Lulu inherits $5 million in owner’s will». NewsChannel5 . Retrieved 15 February 2021 .
- Tuttle, Brad (October 5, 2015). «The 10 Richest Pets of All Time». Money.com. Archived from the original on November 21, 2021 . Retrieved 22 February 2016 .
- «10 of the Richest Pets in History». mentalfloss.com. 5 November 2018. Archived from the original on 20 June 2019 . Retrieved 12 June 2019 .
- Nicole Lyn Pesce. «The 10 Richest Pets in the world». marketwatch.com. Archived from the original on 6 October 2020 . Retrieved 9 August 2020 .
- Tim Parker. «These Are Some Of The Richest Pets In The World». Business Insider Australia. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016 . Retrieved 22 February 2016 .
- «The world’s top 4 richest pets». Yahoo! Finance. 6 January 2012. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016 . Retrieved 22 February 2016 .
- Mervin Rosenman (1984). Forgery, Perjury and an Enormous Fortune.
- Gould, Jennifer (November 18, 2021). «No, stupid: A dog isn’t really selling Madonna’s former Florida mansion». New York Post . Retrieved January 3, 2023 .
- Spencer, Terry (Nov 23, 2021). «Story about dog ‘selling’ mansion part of long-running tale». Orlando Sentinel . Retrieved January 3, 2023 .
- Capital accumulation
- Wealth distribution
- Income distribution
- Consumption distribution
- Nouveau riche (new money)
- Vieux riche (old money)
- Veblen goods
- Conspicuous consumption
- Conspicuous leisure