Rich dog's tale just doesn't wag true

Published Jan. 13, 1999|Updated Sept. 28, 2005

But the corporation behind it might still make an offer on Sylvester Stallone's Miami estate.

As it turns out, Gunther might be nothing more than a hound dog.

For the time being, the gist of the story about the millionaire German shepherd apparently stands: An overseas company with beaucoup bucks wants to buy Sylvester Stallone's estate.

But is the offer coming from the world's richest dog? A canine that owes its fortune to an affectionate German countess who died in 1992?

Maybe not.

"If you want to write it's a joke, you can write that," Maurizio Mian, a spokesman for the attempted purchase, said Tuesday. "I won't do anything."

In the end, it might rank among Miami's all-time best _ worst? _ publicity stunts.

A news release, distributed Monday to South Florida news outlets, got the ball rolling. The claim: Gunther, a German shepherd that lives a transcontinental lifestyle with riches bequeathed by the late Countess Karlotta Liebenstein, is "eyeing" the Stallone mansion.

Behind the pooch's "offer" are the human administrators of Gunther Corp. Those unnamed individuals, who reportedly oversee the Bahamian company born from the inheritance, are eager to compete with Orient-Express hotels for purchase of Stallone's property.

But wait a moment, Mr. Mian: Can you explain this story published in the Italian press? It ran in spring 1995:

Countess Karlotta Liebenstein never existed, and therefore never left any money in her will to the dog Gunther. The story that attributed to the German shepherd the juicy inheritance _ left by an extravagant German noblewoman _ was simply a hoax.

"It was just an invention to publicize the philosophy of the Gunther Group and the Gunther Foundation," Mian was quoted as saying in '95.

Today, 5,000 miles away and four years later, Mian retracts that quote, saying he was only trying to throw off an Italian press that was unfair to the Gunther Foundation, now the Gunther Corp.

Gunther's new tail, er, tale has its own set of unconfirmed questions: Was there ever a countess? Who is behind the Gunther Corp.? Can a dog have millions? Is Gunther really the wealthiest dog in the world?

Gunther Corp. provided Coral Gables publicist Jack Wolfe with a page copied from the Italian edition of the Guinness Book of Records. It calls Gunther the richest dog. But a Guinness spokeswoman said Tuesday that wasn't quite right.

"They've looked into it," said Kim Stram about the European Guinness staff. "But they don't have enough to go on right now. Their decision is, it's not a Guinness record."

And what about the musical group _ formed years ago as the Gunther Group, now reconfigured as heads of the corporation and ready to make a Miami-based comeback, complete with a barking Gunther?

Mian, who identified himself as a lawyer who is also acting as a research scientist for the Gunther Corp., won't name them or set a date for their comeback.

Despite the turn in Gunther's real estate bid, agents sponsoring the offer say it's legitimate. Alan Jacobson, co-owner of Wimbish-Riteway Realty, said he reviewed what he considers to be a legitimate letter from a bank signed by employees of the bank.

"According to information provided, they do, indeed, have the funds to purchase the property," said Jacobson, who is working with Stallone on the sale of his home. "Supposedly, they are coming in with a contract some time this week."

Mian provided a vague description of Gunther Corp.'s business activities. He said the company, which in European news reports has been credited with sponsorship of sports teams and musical groups, is devoted to "sports, science and entertainment."

"And, of course, everything that gives the dog a high quality of life."