SYDNEY (Reuters) - The New Zealand government ruled on Friday that former U.S. “Today Show” co-host Matt Lauer can keep his farm in the country, saying there was currently “insufficient evidence” he had failed required character tests for overseas investors.
NBC News fired Lauer last November after a female colleague accused him of inappropriate sexual behavior.
That raised questions in New Zealand about whether Lauer would be able to retain an 11,000-hectare sheep and cattle farm he bought with his wife in February 2017, given the country’s strict foreign investment laws require investors to “remain of good character.”
New Zealand’s Overseas Investment Office (OIO), which has the power to enforce the sale of property if any conditions are breached, said it had “insufficient evidence at this time to take proceedings against Mr Lauer for breach of the condition.”
Lisa Barrett, deputy chief executive of policy and overseas investment, noted that Lauer has not been charged with or convicted of any offense.
“However, the OIO will continue to actively monitor the matter should further information come to light,” Barrett said in a statement.
Ken Lindner, Lauer’s agent in Los Angeles, was not immediately available for comment.
Lauer recently issued a statement, included in the OIO’s decision, denying any allegations of “coercive, aggressive or abusive actions”, while acknowledging he “acted inappropriately as a husband, father and principal at NBC.”
Foreign ownership of land has generated a public backlash in New Zealand in recent years, with the center-left ruling coalition government introducing tougher standards for sale of farmland to foreigners.
Reporting by Nicholas Ford; Editing by Jane Wardell and Gopakumar Warrier