Is a Millionaire German Shepherd Named Gunther Really Selling Madonna's Former Miami Mansion? | Miami New Times

Real Estate

Tall Tail: Is a Millionaire Dog Really Selling Madonna's Former Miami Mansion?

If a tale about Madonna, a millionaire dog, and the latter's waterfront mansion seems too good to be true, that's because it probably is.
A German shepherd lounges in a room overlooking Miami's Biscayne Bay.
A German shepherd lounges in a room overlooking Miami's Biscayne Bay. Photo by LPG
Share this:
A YouTube video posted on November 17 by real estate agents at the Assouline Team showcases a white, Tuscan-style mansion surrounded by lush greenery and towering palm trees on a sunny Miami day. The camera then pivots to different angles of the two-story waterfront home before panning to Ruthie Assouline sitting beside the property's purported owner: a wealthy German shepherd named Gunther.

"Welcome to 3029 Brickell Ave, the home of Gunther the Sixth," Assouline says. "This was one of the most unique listing pitches we've ever experienced, as the final approval on who the listing agent would be came from the wealthiest animal in the world."

The bizarre news of Gunther VI – alleged inheritor of a late German countesses' multimillion-dollar trust – selling Madonna's former mansion (asking price: $31.75 million) captured the internet's attention last week, generating headlines in Architectural Digest, Forbes, and the Associated Press. AP photographer Lynne Sladky even visited the sprawling property and snapped photos of a German shepherd lounging by the pool and chasing a tennis ball, all while sporting a faux diamond collar.

Of course, if a tale about Madonna, a millionaire dog, and the latter's waterfront mansion seems too good to be true, that's because it probably is.This particular legend has it that Gunther inherited a $150 million trust from a German countess named Karlotta Liebenstein when she died in 1992.

New Times was unable to find any record confirming that a wealthy German countess named Karlotta Liebenstein ever lived.

Media reports dating back 30 years suggest the story of Gunther's vast inheritance may all be an elaborate hoax — one that resurfaces every few years, baiting journalists into attracting publicity to the Gunther Corporation.

If Wikipedia is to be believed, Gunther Corporation is a multimedia production company based in Pisa, Italy. But the Florida Department of State's website lists Gunther Corp. as a Florida corporation with all registered agents and addresses, including 3029 Brickell Ave., listed in Miami.

"This is a totally made-up story," a person with "direct knowledge of the situation" recently told the New York Post. "There is no dog. There never was a dog. The owner thought it would be a fun way to score a reality TV show. That’s it."

An eccentric Italian man named Maurizio Mian is reported to be the mansion's real owner, according to the Post. Mian is quoted in dozens of newspapers over the years promoting various versions of Gunther's lore and at least once admits that the story of the dog's inheritance was all a publicity stunt before retracting his statement.

"It was just an invention to publicize the philosophy of the Gunther Group and the Gunther Foundation," Mian told an Italian outlet, according to a Tampa Bay Times article from 1995. Mian later backed off that admission, saying he was "only trying to throw off an Italian press" that had been unfair to the Gunther Foundation, now known as the Gunther Corporation.

An April 12, 1994, edition of the tabloid Weekly World News — notorious for its freakish and mostly fictional stories — includes an article about Gunther IV, titled "DOG TO INHERIT $12 MILLION!"

"The pampered pooch is living the good life on an estate near Pisa while he waits for his inheritance from a wealthy German countess," the article reads.
An April 1994 edition of the tabloid Weekly World News includes an article about Gunther IV.
Screenshot via Weekly World News
Years later, Gunther was back in the news when the Miami Herald and other outlets wrote about the dog's desire to purchase Sylvester Stallone's waterfront estate in Miami. In January 1999, then-Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz described how Herald journalists took the Gunther Corporation's bait.

"Gunther wound up taking a sizable bite out of the Herald's credibility, along with the local stations that barked up that tree," Kurtz wrote. "The Herald ran a light follow-up, saying the episode may rank among Miami's all-time best — worst? — publicity stunts."

Then, in July of 2000, the Sun Sentinel published a Gunther story headlined "Madonna's Mansion Goes to the Dog." While the article doesn't outright debunk the tale, journalist David CM-Azares questions whether Gunther "really has a $150 million trust fund from a wealthy countess who died in 1992." ("Could this be another hoax?" he asks.)

In 2002, Gunther reportedly became the "new president" of a soccer club owned by Mian, according to a story in the Italian press. A more recent article, published in August 2021 by the soccer news site Goal, describes how Mian had appointed Gunther as honorary president of the club as a media stunt.

"The German shepherd, in Mian's project, is the means to attract mass media attention to Pisa and, in general, to its activity," the story (translated from Italian) states.
click to enlarge
Madonna's former Tuscan-style mansion on Brickell Avenue.
Courtesy of LPG
Ethan and Ruthie Assouline, real estate brokers for the Miami mansion owned by the Gunther Corporation, didn't respond to New Times' request for comment via email. (Last week Ruthie Assouline told the Post that she was unaware that the dog did not own the property.)

But Assouline publicist Gaby Harris presented New Times with a document signed by Caryl Lashley, an attorney representing the Gunther Corporation, declaring that "Gunther the Dog" is the beneficiary of the trust and therefore owns the property. The one-page document is signed by Lashley and dated Monday. It's embossed with a seal that says "Gunther Corporation."
click to enlarge
A document purports to show that Gunther the Dog is the "principal beneficiary" of the Gunther Corporation trust.
Courtesy of Gaby Harris
New Times was unable to confirm the identity of the German shepherd in Assouline's YouTube video and the AP's photos.

Harris said Gunther was unavailable for a Zoom interview and did not immediately respond to New Times' question about his reasons for wanting to sell a property that he seems to so thoroughly enjoy.

Mian couldn't be reached for comment via email and phone.

In a phone call with New Times, Mian's certified public accountant, Michael Lewis, declined to comment on Gunther's story, and laughed at the idea of a reporter attempting to set the record straight.

"Good luck with that," he said before hanging up.
KEEP NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls. Make a one-time donation today for as little as $1.