Powerful nature: 12 of the world's wealthiest pets
The Forbes billionaire list is known by all, yet, humans are not the only wealthy species on Earth. Inheriting their net worth from their late owners, some pets have become worth millions, some doubling the values of their estates during their lifespans. BEAM looks at some of the richest estates ran for these animals.
Of the 90,000 pet owners that dies in the UK each year, 77.7% don't make any arrangements for their pets, which can lead to complications after their passing. Pet trust funds have, however, started to emerge in recent years and have become particularly popular in the US where 39 states have passed legislation aimed at regulating these.
Typically in the $30,000 range, some trust funds dedicated to pets have started crossing the 7 figure mark, creating some of nature's richest animals. Not only limited to cash, such pet trusts have been known to include property, jewelry and a lifetime of prearranged pampering. Wealthier than most middle class Americans, these pets have sometimes also been the ones to create the wealth, yielding returns to their owners of sometimes over $1 million.
Net worth: $375 million
This German shepherd named Gunther IV tops the list of the world's richest animals. Countess Karlotta Liebenstein of Germany loved her German Shepherd, Gunther III, so much so that when she died in 1991 she left the dog a reported $80 million in her trust fund.
Trustees for the dog have made some smart investments since then, building up that inheritance into a fortune now valued at $375 million, which is now in the paws of Gunther’s heir, Gunther IV. Among the acquisitions of this later Gunther include villas in Italy and the Bahamas, and a Miami Beach mansion once owned by Madonna.
Net worth: $1 - 100 million
The internet famous Grumpy Cat has an estimated net worth of at least $1 million and potentially up to $100 million. Known worldwide as the Internet 'meme' cat, the feline amassed a social media following in the millions and appeared in several advertising campaigns and media events.
Its other revenue streams include a merchandising empire under the Grumpy Cat brand operated by the cat's owners and selling everything from plush toys to beverages. Earlier this month, they won a law suit over a company that enfringed on their copyright with a $710,000 payout.
Net worth: $97 million
Next comes Choupette, described as “the most famous cat in the world, and the richest”, by its owner, Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld. He might not be wrong - the white Burmese cat with an estimated net worth of $97 million, two maids, published book and more than 93,000 followers on Instagram has earned a reported $3.3 million in modeling fees alone for appearing in photo-shoots advertising cars in Germany and Japanese beauty product. As for Choupette’s appeal, Lagerfeld explained, “she is the center of the world. If you saw her, you would understand. She is kind of Greta Garbo”.
Net worth: $92 million
Another lucky canine, a poodle called Toby Rimes is worth $92 million. The owner, Ella Wendell, was the heiress to a vast fortune amassed during the Gilded Age but had no heirs of her own. When she died in 1931, she left the entire family fortune estimated at being up to $80 million to her poodle, who would continue to reside in her Park Avenue mansion. The dog's now great-great-great-dogfather is still benefiting from its endowement according to Vice.
Net worth: £40 million
Although cats and dogs comprise the majority of lucky rich pets, there are some noteworthy exceptions to the rule. Among rich great apes, we have two contenders, Kalu the chimpanzee, and Chunmun, a long-tailed macaque monkey. It was rumored that Kalu stood to inherit a fortune worth £40 million. The animal’s owner Patricia O'Neill rescued the ape from a tree in South Africa.
Then, while her husband Frank, an Australian swimmer, was competing in the Sydney Olympics in 2000, she changed her will so that Kalu would inherit her estate near Cape Town. She said, “I couldn't bear the thought of what might happen to her after I died”. Her husband, however, was less affectionate, saying that he had hated the monkey ever since he caught it smoking his cigarettes and drinking his booze.
However, Kalu did not make it to full inheritance due to fraud and legal complications.
Net worth: $30 million
Famous media personalities have also left their mark, creating a constellation of rich pets. Five dogs - cocker spaniel Sadie, springer spaniels Sunny and Lauren, and golden retrievers Layla and Luke, with an estimated net worth of $30 million belong to Oprah Winfrey, who adores her dogs. This trust fund was included in the famed entertainer's will for the well being of her dogs should anything happen to her according to the Wall Street Journal.
Net worth: $15 million
Some pet choices may raise an eyebrow, as it is the case with Gigoo, a hen with an estimated net worth of $15 million. After retiring, British publishing magnate Miles Blackwell, moved to a farm in the country to raise sheep and hens. When he died shortly after his wife, in 2001, he divided his $95 million fortune to a variety of charities, but carved aside $15 million for his beloved hen, as part of a foundation for rare breeds according to Country Living.
Net worth: $13 million
A wealthy widow Maria Assunta rescued a black stray in the streets of Rome, named Tomasso. When she died in 2011 at age 94, Assunta bequeathed to the cat her $13 million fortune. Since Italian law prohibits animals from being the recipients of any inheritances, Assunta’s nurse instead received the fortune and the responsibility of taking care of the pampered pet for the rest of its life.
Net worth: $12 million
During the 1980s, New York City real estate developer Leona Helmsley was dubbed “the Queen of mean” for the way she allegedly treated her employees, but she proved to be anything but mean to her Maltese terrier, named Trouble, who was bequeathed $12 million when she died in 2007. That figure was reduced to $2 million after ticked-off relatives that did not receive a cent went to court to contest the will according to the New York Times.
Net worth: $3 million
Socialite Gail Posner, the owner of Conchita the Chihuahua, described her as “the most pampered dog in the world”. When Posner passed away in 2010, she left the dog a $3 million trust and her $8.3 million Miami mansion. Posner’s son received less than half of what Conchita received in the inheritance according to the Telegraph.
The Roddenberry pets
Net worth: $4 million
Majel Barrett Roddenberry made her appearance on the original Star Trek series, but she was also the widow of series creator Gene Roddenberry. She left her pets a $4 million trust when she died in 2008, along with an additional $1 million to her housekeeper to take care of her cats and dogs in one of her homes according to Gizmodo.
Net worth: $3.2 million
Unlike the other animals on this list, the Jack Russell terrier Moose did not inherit his money but earned it. Moose is best known for the role of Eddie the dog on Frasier, a role he would eventually share with his lookalike son, Enzo. When Moose died in 2006 at age 16, his net worth and that of his estate was believed to be approximately $3.2 million according to the Huffington Post.
Although the exact amounts left in these dog's estates often relies on data published at the time of their owners' death and may be subject to estate taxes, the funds set up to directly oversee the wellbeing of these animals make them, without a doubt some of the world's richest creatures.