The Mysterious Gunther Corporation From Gunther’s Millions Has Dissolved
The company — not a dog — was the real buyer of Madonna’s Miami mansion.
In Nov. 2021, the Associated Press reported that a dog named Gunther VI was selling the Miami mansion it purchased from Madonna for a hefty profit. Within a week, however, the independent global news organization admitted it had been duped by a decades-long “publicity stunt,” which centered on a line of German shepherds presented as the heirs to a German countess’s fortune. According to the AP, Miami-Dade County property records showed that the Gunther Corporation, not Gunther VI himself, owned the estate. Further, the dogs were largely used as a ruse by Maurizio Mian, an Italian pharmaceutical company scion, to promote his real estate sales and other projects.
Netflix’s Gunther’s Millions revealed that the Gunther Corp., which is part of the Gunther Group, was allegedly part of one of the “biggest tax fraud schemes” of all time. According to Forbes, the Italy-based Gunther Group, which is registered in the Bahamas, invests in and owns properties around the world, including homes in the Bahamas, Tuscany, Milan, and Florence. The umbrella company has also reportedly invested in publishing, sports teams, nightclubs, and scientific research. The Gunther Corp. specifically, however, was voluntarily dissolved by director Monica Tirado in March 2022, according to Florida records.
The four-part Netflix doc recapped Gunther’s supposed backstory, describing how German countess Karlotta Liebenstein had left $400 million in a trust to care for her dog, Gunther III, and his progeny, upon her death in 1992. As the story goes, she appointed Mian, who was friends with her late son, to take care of the Gunthers. In the decades that followed, the world’s wealthiest pets amassed an empire that included private jets, luxurious mansions, a glamorous entourage, and even a pop music group called the Burgundians.
“I moved to Miami in 2000, and remember hearing about this millionaire dog that had bought Madonna's mansion,” Gunther’s Millions director Aurelien Leturgie explained in an interview provided by Netflix. “It was very big local news, and at the time I was like, wow, that is really bizarre. But the story died pretty much right after it became public, as things did before social media. Fast-forward [to] about two years ago, I came across an article on Gunther and connected the dots.”
However, the Gunther hoax has been reported on for about as long as it has been in existence. Mian reportedly admitted to an Italian newspaper in 1995 that the countess “was just an invention to publicize the philosophy” of his foundation, according to the AP. When the Gunther Corp. purchased Madonna’s waterfront Miami home for $7.5 million in 2000, the Tampa Bay Times noted that Mian had already revealed that Liebenstein never existed. “The money comes from Europe,” Miami lawyer and Gunther Corp. vice president Dennis Bedard told the paper, adding that the $7.5-million cash purchase “should buy a lot of credibility.”
When the same mansion hit the market for $31 million in November 2021, the New York Post also reported that the outlandish claims about Gunther’s inheritance were “totally” false. “There is no dog sleeping in Madonna’s former bedroom,” a source with “direct knowledge of the deal” told the paper. “Maurizio wanted to get into the film business and made up this fake story. He is the son of a billionaire. The caretaker told me the whole story, too. It is the biggest scam. It is a joke. I would like someone to put an end to this nonsense. Right now, they have hired a dog and are filming him at the house. They hired a dog 20 years ago and now they’ve hired another — it is a scam.”
When the Post approached Mian about the lie, he responded, “It’s complicated... A dog doesn’t own the house, but there is a foundation [for the care of the dog].”
The same month, the Miami New Times contacted Mian’s certified public accountant, Michael Lewis, who reportedly laughed at the idea of a journalist attempting to set the record straight on the mystery of Gunther and the larger corporation bearing his name. “Good luck with that,” Lewis replied, before hanging up the phone.