Netflix loves a good cult story, and its latest true crime series delves into one that was built around, of all things, a German shepherd. Gunther’s Millions tells the story of a line of dogs, all named Gunther, who live a life of luxury after apparently inheriting millions; their handler, Italian pharmaceutical scion Maurizio Mian, oversees their care. As it unfolds, though, the docuseries unveils convoluted scheme behind Gunther’s wealth — which involves a made-up countess and tax fraud — and also explores a series of social experiments that Mian conducted with Gunther’s money, which soon snowballed into a cult-like group.
The series explains that Gunther’s €400 million actually came from Mian’s mother, Gabriella Gentili, via her family’s pharmaceutical company. Using a secretive bank and a trust, Gentili figured out how to transfer the money to her son tax-free: name a dog the sole beneficiary of the trust, and have Mian look after the dog and his wealth. The trust later later grew into the Gunther Corporation and the Gunther Group, which put money into real estate and sports teams, and even managed a five-person pop musical group called the Burgundians.
Who Were The Burgundians?
When Mian went to Miami casting director Ed Arenas to help him find members for this group, he had a very specific look in mind for its members. The men had to be “young, good-looking, and vigorous” with “blonde hair” and the women had to “look like Victoria Anderson … like the cover girls of today’s stardom, but with jaunty buttocks.”
While they did practice music and choreography, the real purpose of Burgundians was to be studied by Mian and a team of scientists. All the members had to live on the grounds of a Miami estate with Gunther, where they were encouraged to live a “hedonistic” lifestyle of singing, dancing, and swimming while scientists watched and took notes. The members were also encouraged to have a lot of sex, with the media dubbing the mansion, formerly owned by Madonna, as “the house of orgies.”
“We were studying how people can find a state of well-being, to reach perfection,” Mian admitted. Though he first claimed this was because the countess wanted to conduct study to understand her late son’s struggles with mental health, Mian later revealed he made the countess and her son up, and the study was designed to help him cope with his own depression.
Did Maurizio Mian Run A Cult?
According to some members of the Burgundians, it certainly felt like Mian had created something cult-like. Former member Michelle Mainoni said it was all fun at first, but it wasn’t long before they realized that the scientists were watching them all the time via cameras set up all around the house. According to research associate Barry Morse, the Burgundians had to follow the “13 Commandments,” which included statements like: “life is an endless festival,” “abolish the family,” and “(you will) make sport, it will help you make love.” The women also had to do weekly weigh-ins. “It was like a cult of perfection, with Maurizio sitting at the top,” Mainoni said.
But the mansion’s neighbors became disturbed by the rumors of what was happening, so Mian shut it down.
Who Were The Magnificent 5?
After Mian’s mom died in 2011, he “took the experiment to a higher level” in Italy with a new group called The Magnificent 5. The group was composed of Italian celebrities like Fabrizio Corona and Mian’s ex, Cristina Mian.
They followed a distillation of the Burgundian’s 13 Commandments, and had to strive towards five ideals: physicality, popularity, spectacularity, sexuality, and wealth. Mian claimed this all fed into “filling the Edo Disk” — a light-up necklace that was controlled by scientists that showed how much each member was living up to the five ideals. The more their necklace was lit up, the closer they supposedly were to the true meaning of life.
Was Maurizio Mian’s Cult About Eugenics?
Essentially, yes, which Mian himself admits when he acknowledges that similar ideas were taken to the extreme in Nazi Germany. Gunther’s Millions claims that Mian’s overarching goal was a dream to create “a superhuman race” of people, as Arenas called it, who did not have to be taught how to be happy because they were born happy. The scientists even had the members participate in “planned mating,” where the intent was to create a new generation born from genetically perfect and “scientifically proven” happy individuals. “It was very scary territory,” Arenas said.
Eventually, Cristina Mian actually had a daughter with Maurizio Mian. But when the press speculated that Gunther was the baby’s father, there was a public outrage. As a result of this, the study eventually fell apart, with Mian claiming it was “partly successful, partly not.”
While it appears that Cristina keeps in touch with Mian, another member described being in The Magnificent 5 as akin to “brainwashing,” while Corona dubbed it a study where Mian “paid five losers to have sex.”
“Maurizio … could have done a lot of things with the money he had,” Corona added. “Instead, during the past 15 years, he’s invested and spent money on women and projects, and in end what he wanted never got done.”
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