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'Gunther's Millions': Did A Dog Really Inherit Millions From A German Heiress?

Did a countess really give all her money to a dog? Did she even exist, or was she a creation of Maurizio Mian? These are the questions at the center of Netflix's docuseries "Gunther's Millions."

By Gina Tron

Did a German heiress really leave all her wealth to dog? And, if so, was it out of love for the German Shepherd named Gunther — or was it all a ruse?

Netflix explores the bizarre tale of the world’s so-called richest dog in the four-part documentary “Gunther’s Millions,” debuting on Feb. 1. According to the series description, German Countess Karlotta Leibenstein left her entire $80 million fortune to her beloved dog Gunther III when she died in 1992. Gunther VI is the current Gunther.

“As the legend goes, Gunther’s great-grandfather was originally owned by a mysterious countess whose son died tragically,” a synopsis provided to Oxygen.com from Netflix explains. “Having no heirs, the countess bequeathed her considerable fortune to her beloved dog, and placed him in the care of her son’s close friend, an Italian pharmaceutical heir and aspiring impresario named Maurizio Mian.”

Supposedly, Mian was tasked with providing Gunther with a lifestyle that would've made the Countess' late son happy.

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For the past 30 years, Mian has built a surreal empire based on the premise of the dog's bloodline. He has purchased high-profile real estate, including Madonna’s former Miami mansion, for the dog, according to People. But he has also created a questionable pop group, which appeared to be an affront for controversial social experiments, as “Gunther’s Millions” details.

Maurizio Mian in Gunther's Millions

What's more, Netflix claims the dog and Mian are connected to “one of the biggest tax fraud schemes of all time.” Specifically, the dog and the Gunther Corporation were named in the Liechtenstein Papers, according to Italian newspaper La Stampa, a tax evasion scandal that ignited controversy in 2008. The Gunther Corporation reportedly held €400 million in the tax haven.

They are also connected to the creation of stunts for media attention. As the Associated Press reported in 2021, “the tale of a German shepherd and a trust has long been used as a publicity stunt to dupe reporters," adding that the “dog’s role appears to be little more than a joke that’s carried on for decades.”

The AP noted that for more than two decades, different dogs named Gunther have been presented as Leibenstein’s canine beneficiaries. However, “the story appears to be a ruse created by Maurizio Mian,” who the AP claims has used the tale to promote his own financial interests, including the purchase of multiple sports teams in Italy.

Furthermore, they stated “there is no evidence of a German countess.” According to the Associated Press, Mian admitted in 1995 to the Italian press that the countess story is indeed just a “hoax.” The money apparently all stems from Mian’s pharmaceutical business.

As for the Countess' so-called son who tragically died, he doesn't seem to exist either.