BY NICK PERRY
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Former “Today” show host Matt Lauer can keep a lakeside ranch in New Zealand after authorities there concluded Friday there wasn’t enough evidence he’d breached a “good character” condition.
Lauer has been accused of sexual misconduct by at least three women and was fired from NBC last November.
His termination triggered an investigation by New Zealand authorities, who require foreign buyers of important assets to be of good character. The provision is broad and includes criminal convictions as well as anything else that authorities decide reflects poorly on an owner’s integrity.
Lauer last year purchased a lease for the Hunter Valley Station, a 10,750 hectare (26,500 acre) farm near the ski resort of Queenstown which advertising material described as a “truly majestic setting,” which adjoins a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The property includes a five-bedroom lakefront homestead as well as several huts, about 13,000 cattle and merino sheep, and runs alongside a river that’s filled with trout and salmon.
New Zealand’s Overseas Investment Office (OIO) said that as part of its investigation, it had taken sworn statements from Lauer and had been in touch with NBC.
“Mr. Lauer has not been charged with any offence, nor convicted, and the evidence available to the OIO at this time does not establish that Mr. Lauer is unfit to continue to hold the asset,” said Lisa Barrett, an official at Land Information New Zealand, in a statement. “However, in reaching this position, we do not condone the inappropriate way that Mr. Lauer has behaved.”
Barrett said the office would continue to monitor the issue and had made it clear to Lauer that he needed to remain of good character to keep the ranch.
Lauer’s New Zealand lawyer Graeme Todd said his client didn’t wish to comment.
Last year, Lauer and wife Annette Roque said in a statement they’d be visiting New Zealand for several years, and “every time we visit, we feel lucky to be in a place of such endless beauty, inspiration and adventure.”
Lauer is one of dozens of powerful men who’ve faced a range of sexual misconduct allegations since last year when allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein were published.
Copyright 2018. The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.