Gunther’s Millions: Was Countess Karlotta Liebenstein a real person?

Gunther's Millions. Cr: Netflix.
Gunther's Millions. Cr: Netflix. /

One of Netflix’s weirder documentaries is making its way to the streaming service this February. Gunther’s Millions is the crazy story of the world’s richest dog and his “cult-like” entourage headed by caretaker Maurizio Mian, an Italian businessman and heir to a pharmaceutical empire.

The story begins with German Countless Karlotta Liebenstein. When Liebenstein passed away in 1992, she willed her $80 million fortune to her beloved German shepherd, Gunther, named after her late son of the same name. But was the countess a real person? Or was the entire story faked?

That begs the question: is the richest dog in the world a hoax?

Gunther’s Millions: The truth about Countess Karlotta Liebenstein

A little over halfway through the Gunther’s Millions docuseries, Maurizio Mian reveals what many have long suspected: there is no German Countess Karlotta Liebenstein. The entire story was fabricated as a way for Maurizio’s family, owners of a pharmaceutical company, to funnel money offshore without having to pay taxes. The “character” of Karlotta was instead loosely based on one of Maurizio’s aunts.

Was there a real Gunther?

Like Countess Karlotta Liebenstein, her deceased son Gunther was also made up. In the story, Gunther is the countess’s late son who suffered with depression his whole life and ultimately committed suicide. In reality, there was no Gunther, and Maurizio used his creation as a projection of himself. Maurizio has struggled with depression himself, and that’s why he’s so dedicated to finding the ultimate “cure” for happiness.

Who was Gunther’s real owner?

Not even the dog was really a part of this story. The original Gunther (the dog) was owned by Maurizio’s ex-girlfriend Antonella Signorini. Gunther became very sick, and they had to administer cortisol injections to keep him alive. But the cortisol caused Gunther to get osteoporosis. Mian’s family company administered an experimental drug to try and help Gunther, and he did improve.

For a while, Gunther and Mian became famous for this “miracle cure,” but once the novelty wore off, Mian had to find another way to get his name back out there. That’s where the start of this story began. Mian and Antonella both loved Gunther, so even though he was Antonella’s dog originally, the couple more or less shared him. And as we know, Mian dedicated significant resources to ensuring Gunther’s legacy so there would always be another Gunther.

Was Gunther the dog cloned?

In the original Gunther’s Millions trailer, there is a throway line referencing cloning Gunther. That comes into play in the very end of the docuseries, in a post-credits scene, where Mian tells documentary filmmaker Aurelien Leturgie that he actually cloned Gunther multiple times. But Mian is just spinning yet another tale, admitting that’s not true—although it would make a great story. So, no, Gunther VI is not a clone.

Gunther’s Millions is now streaming on Netflix.

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