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GUNTHER VI: THE MILLIONAIRE GERMAN SHEPHERD FEASTING ON GOLD-FLECKED STEAK
Luxury Fred Sherman/Shutterstock
BY KAREN CORDAY/FEB. 18, 2023 9:00 PM EST
Learning about the over-the-top, resource-gobbling luxury that incredibly rich humans live with and take for granted is enough to give anyone pause, but it's even harder to absorb the story of a wealthy German Shepherd that lives an opulent existence beyond the average person's wildest dreams. As reported by Alux, "the biggest resource for luxury and fine-living enthusiasts in the world," Gunther VI (above) is a descendant of Gunther III, who in 1992 became the sole heir of German countess Karlotta Leibenstein. Leibenstein had no living relatives nor close friends and left her beloved pet her $80 million fortune. The fortune was then passed along to the original Gunther's offspring. Like most heirs, the Gunthers have a trust fund and employ people to handle their family fortune and make investments on their behalf, and the original $80 million grew to $500 million, as reported by People magazine in January 2022.
Reports say that Gunther's lavish life includes feasting on steak, caviar, and truffles, drinking bottled water, riding in his limo, swimming in his pool, and taking spa days. He employs a butler and a personal maid as well as a security team and has even been known to relax by attending exclusive auctions. In 2001, Gunther and two of his handlers went to an Italian auction and successfully bid on a $1.1 million truffle. He made the news in early 2022 when he successfully sold his Florida estate, which at one point had belonged to pop music icon Madonna, for a cool $29 million.
DOES MAURIZIO MIAN WORK FOR GUNTHER?
Per The New York Post, a man named Maurizio Mian has been presented to the media as the Gunther's "designated head caretaker." In addition to caring for the pampered pup, Mian is also in charge of what People referred to as "other businesses" ran on Gunther's behalf, contributing money to research science projects, and even "found[ing] Gunther's Rescue to help animals in need." As it turns out, the wild tale of Gunther's extravagant lifestyle was a decades-long hoax developed and perpetuated by Mian himself. There is no evidence that countess Karlotta Leibenstein actually existed. Instead, the original fortune was left directly to Mian, the heir to an Italian pharmaceutical conglomerate.
Mian's mother had sent a good portion of the family's money to a friend in Germany via Lichtenstein and the Bahamas in order to avoid paying taxes. When the friend died, Mian came up with his own, less traditional scam to continue avoiding paying taxes: make a dog the heir to the fortune. The original Gunther belonged to an ex-girlfriend of Mien's and was living a typical dog's life until he stepped in to serve as an unlikely heir. In the new Netflix series Gunther's Millions, the filmmakers spoke with Mian, who said of his idea to use a dog for money laundering purposes, "It was also a carefully curated decision, a financial artifice for taxes ... and then all of the media fell in love with this story of the countess and the dog" (via the New York Post).
THE CULT OF GUNTHER?
As reported by the New York Post, keeping Gunther in the press required Maurizio Mien to constantly come up with new publicity stunts. He had first used Gunther III in the mid-1990s to promote the drug Osteomax, a supposed miracle cure for osteoporosis in German Shepherds. According to the Associated Press, Mian's family's pharmaceutical business, Istituto Gentili, developed the osteoporosis treatment with the U.S. pharmaceutical company Merck; Merck bought it outright in 1997.
The original purchase of Madonna's former Florida estate was another ploy to not only keep publications writing about Gunther, but to set up what Lee Dahlberg, one of Gunther's supposed team members, termed a "wild, orgy-esque, Caligula situation," per the New York Post. Mien paid a rotating group of five men and women, including Dahlberg as well as his own ex-wife, Carla Riccitelli, to live in the mansion and be photographed interacting with and caring for Gunther. However, Mien took the facade even further and told the group that the non-existent countess had had an interest in the science of what makes people happy. He went on to personally hire researchers and a physician to study the men and women's interactions with each other as well as with Gunther. He encouraged them to have sex with one another and to abide by "13 commandments," including "science is king" and "sexuality should be openly expressed." Emile Dumay, executive producer of "Gunther's Millions," said of Mien's bizarre set-up, "There were definitely some cultish elements to it."
WHY DO MEDIA OUTLETS KEEP REPORTING GUNTHER STORIES?
Perhaps the most surprising element of the story of Gunther is the perpetual popularity of the story in the press despite it being first outed as a hoax by Mian himself way back in 1995. In 2021, the Associated Press ran a retraction of a story reporting on Gunther's sale of the Florida estate that had once belonged to Madonna and noted that in a 1995 interview with an Italian newspaper, Mian had admitted the story of Gunther's inheritance "was just an invention to publicize the philosophy."
The AP also pointed out a 1999 stunt, reported at first as fact by the Miami Herald newspaper, that Gunther was interested in purchasing a mansion owned by actor Sylvester Stallone. A day later, the Herald retracted the story and including a quote from Mian: "If you want to write it's a joke, you can write that," Mian told the Herald. "I won't do anything." The AP notes that they heard of Gunther's supposed sale of Madonna's former mansion via a press release from publicists for the real estate agency that handled the listing and released a statement reading, in part, "We did not do our due diligence in the reporting process. We have corrected the story, and we apologize."
Read More: https://www.grunge.com/1200318/gunther-vi-the-millionaire-german-shepherd-feasting-on-gold-flecked-steak/