OIO says Matt Lauer can keep his luxury ranch – for now

The Overseas Investment Office says Matt Lauer can keep his luxury central Otago ranch, despite allegations of inappropriate conduct publicised in the media.

In November last year the OIO confirmed it was aware of allegations made about US broadcaster Matt Lauer who he was fired from NBC News’ Today show following allegations of sexual harassment. It said it was looking into the allegations, as foreign owners of sensitive land in this country must remain of good character. 

The broadcaster and his wife, through the company Orange Lakes (NZ), had received consent under the Overseas Investment Act consent to buy the lease for Hunter Valley Station in Wanaka in February last year.

US media reports suggest the two have split and there may be a division of assets but it is unclear this would mean for the property, said to be New Zealand’s largest lakeside estate.

LINZ policy and overseas investment deputy chief executive Lisa Barrett says the office has checked out the allegations and there is not enough evidence at this time.

“However, the OIO will continue to actively monitor the matter should further information come to light. In addition, the OIO has made it clear to Mr Lauer of his continuing obligation to remain of good character as a condition of his OIO consent.”

What the probe involved
The OIO says its investigation involved considering and testing confidential information supplied by both Mr Lauer and his former employer, NBC. It also reviewed allegations in the media and said while they were troubling, it does not rely on unverified material or allegations on social media.

The office says the NBC investigation found four women had raised allegations of sexually inappropriate behaviour but there is nothing that says it was criminal.

“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 office noted that, while Mr Lauer had apologised to his family about past relationships with co-workers, allegations of aggressive or abusive behaviour were false.

Limited history
The last high-profile foreign investor to face scrutiny after the sale of a property was US wine fund manager Charles Banks. Mr Banks is the majority shareholder of Terroir Capital, which manages Terroir Winery Fund. It bought Hawke's Bay winery Trinity Hill in 2014.

Mr Banks, well-known as NBA star Tim Duncan’s former financial adviser, pleaded guilty to a charge of fraud and was convicted and jailed for four years earlier this year.

The OIO says while it found Mr Banks was not of good character, he resigned as a director of Trinity Hill, so the land did not need to be disposed of. 

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