By Agence France-Presse
New Zealand officials said Friday they were examining disgraced US news anchor Matt Lauer’s property dealings in the South Pacific nation following the sexual harassment allegations that prompted his sacking.
Lauer bought the lease on a large rural property near the exclusive ski resort town of Queenstown earlier this year for an estimated NZ$13.5 million ($9.2 million).
But New Zealand’s overseas investment regulations say foreign property owners must “continue to be of good character”, a rule Lauer’s alleged sexual misconduct may have breached.
Another key factor in the 56-year-old gaining approval for the property was that he was a “key person in a key industry”, which no longer applies after his sacking.
New Zealand’s Overseas Investment Office said it was looking into Lauer’s lease on a property called Hunter Valley Station.
“The Overseas Investment Office is aware that allegations have been made in relation to Matt Lauer and that he is no longer working for NBC News in the USA,” OIO deputy chief Lisa Barrett said in a statement.
“We are discussing this with his representative and are seeking further information.”
NBC said Wednesday it fired Lauer, a married father-of-three, after receiving a detailed account from a colleague of inappropriate sexual behaviour on the job.
Lauer, one of he best-known and most powerful newsmen in the United States, has since expressed “shame” and “regret”.
He is among a number of wealthy North Americans to have purchased properties in New Zealand in recent years, including tech titan Peter Thiel, financial services guru William Foley and film director James Cameron.
The New Yorker magazine reported last year that remote New Zealand had become the refuge of choice for ultra-rich Americans looking for a bolthole if Donald Trump’s presidency goes disastrously wrong.
However, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s new centre-left government is aiming to clamp down on foreign home ownership amid fears it is driving up property values and pricing New Zealanders out of the market. (AFP)