Is Gunther’s Millions a true story? Real events Netflix documentary is based on - and who is Maurizio Mian

Four-part Netflix documentary series Gunther’s Millions tells the incredible story of Gunther, the ‘world’s richest dog’ and his owner Maurizio Mian

Netflix documentary series Gunther’s Millions follows the incredible story of Maurizio Mian and his dog, Gunther. Who Mian claimed had inherited a fortune from a wealthy countess. The exploits of ‘the world’s richest dog’ were widely reported in the press for years, even though some of Mian’s claims sounded too bizarre to be true.

The series sees Gunther living the high life, with meals prepared by a private chef, and a mansion purchased in his name, filled with beautiful models. But eventually, the truth of Gunther’s inheritance is brought to light.

Gunther’s Millions is the true story of the absolutely untrue story of a millionaire dog and his handler who bamboozled the press for decades.

Is Gunther’s Millions a true story?

Yes, shockingly, Gunther’s Millions is a true story - or at least the true story of a major hoax.  It follows a dog with a trust fund and his eccentric handler Maurizio Mian.

Gunther and Maurizio Mian
Gunther and Maurizio Mian
Gunther and Maurizio Mian

In 1992, German Countess Carlotta Von Liebenstein willed her 152m DM ($80 million) fortune to her German Shepherd Gunther III. When Gunther III died the fortune passed to his son Gunther IV.

Because dogs are notoriously rubbish at handling their own finances, the money was placed in a trust which was controlled by Liebenstein’s late son’s (also called Gunther) friend, Maurizio Mian. He was only able to use the money to invest in sports teams.

This is the story as told by Mian at least, but the true version of events is a little different. Mian confesses in the documentary that the countess was a work of fiction and his story of the dog’s wild inheritance was fabricated so that Mian could avoid paying taxes.

Mian took his fabrications to incredible lengths - at one point he claimed that his son had actually been fathered by Gunther. Despite this being a scientific impossibility, some media ran with it.

Reporting on Gunther, the ‘world’s richest dog’ appeared in respected news organisations until as late as 2021, when the Associated Press released a statement calling the affair: "a long-running tale used as a publicity stunt to dupe reporters”, and apologised for giving the story the time of day.

Gunther and the models at outside the Madonna mansion
Gunther and the models at outside the Madonna mansion
Gunther and the models at outside the Madonna mansion

Who is Maurizio Mian?

Mian had plenty of wealth himself from his family’s Italian pharmaceutical business - and Gunther the dog was used to promote one of the businesses drugs in Italy, with the claim that it had cured Gunther’s osteoporosis.

After this story was swallowed by the press, Mian began to weave more wonderful tales, creating the myth of Von Liebenstein and Gunther’s trust fund. He bought Madonna’s multi-million dollar Miami mansion, and then claimed that it had been purchased by Gunther.

At the mansion, Mian hired a group of young models (he said they worked for Gunther) and asked them to live by 13 Commandments, which according to one of the models, created a ‘wild, orgy-esque, Caligula situation.’

Gradually, Mian became fixated on the idea of finding the key to human happiness, a project which he would sink vast amounts of money into, hoping to create a superhuman race of people who would never be unhappy. This was reportedly a product of Mian’s struggles with depression.

In 2008 it was revealed that Mian had stored €400 million in Liechtenstein to avoid certain taxes - he stated that this money was Gunther’s legacy and had been declared to the Italian authorities. Mian has never been charged with any crime relating to his financial dealings.

When is Gunther’s Millions on Netflix?

The four-part series Gunther’s Millions was released on Netflix on Wednesday 1 February - all episodes are available to stream now.