8 Jun 2018

Disgraced US TV host cleared to keep Central Otago property

3:50 pm on 8 June 2018

A disgraced American TV host forced out of his job in November after allegations of sexual misconduct has been cleared to retain his South Island property.

Matt Lauer.

Matt Lauer. Photo: AFP

Matt Lauer bought the lease for the Hunter Valley Station in Central Otago just over a year ago and the consent for that requires him to be a person of good character.

The Overseas Investment Office (OIO) began an investigation after his employer, NBC News, issued a statement late last year explaining it had terminated Mr Lauer's employment due to sexually inappropriate behaviour in the workplace in relation to a colleague.

Until then he had fronted the channel's Today programme for over 20 years.

NBC stated it was the first complaint it had received about Mr Lauer's behaviour in that time but indicated the behaviour may not have been an isolated incident.

An OIO investigation obtained sworn statements from Mr Lauer.

However, an OIO spokesperson said the statements could not be made public as they contained confidential material relating to the terms of his employment.

"The OIO relies on the accuracy and truthfulness of the statements made by Mr Lauer.

"For completeness, we note that it is an offence to knowingly or recklessly make a false or misleading statement to the OIO."

The organisation also spoke to NBC and reviewed several allegations made against Matt Lauer on various media platforms.

In its report the OIO said: "While some of the allegations are troubling, the OIO cannot, and does not, rely on any unverified material or allegations made on social media."

The report said Mr Lauer acted inappropriately and in breach of his terms of employment but there was "nothing to raise a legitimate concern that he might misuse his position within Orange Lakes to replicate behaviour".

"The OIO has taken into account that while Mr and Mrs Lauer are the ultimate owners ... they are not involved in the daily operation of the Hunter Valley station and they continue to reside in the United States," the report said.

Land Information's overseas investment deputy chief executive Lisa Barrett said after taking legal advice the organisation had insufficient evidence to take proceedings against Mr Lauer.

"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.

"However, in reaching this position we do not condone the inappropriate way that Mr Lauer has behaved."

The OIO would continue to actively monitor the matter should further information come to light, Ms Barrett said

It had made clear to Matt Lauer his continuing obligation to remain of good character.