If there’s one way to get out of the limelight after your career was wrecked by a sex scandal, it’s to buy a huge ranch in New Zealand, fade into oblivion and hope that nobody ever sees or hears from you again.
Unfortunately for Matt Lauer, even that option might not be open to him.
According to Bloomberg, Lauer’s purchase of a massive $9 million ranch in Australia’s less-talented cousin is coming under scrutiny due to a government requirement that foreign land owners be of “good character.”
Back in February, the New Zealand government granted Lauer’s company permission to buy the lease for a ranch called Hunter Valley Station, a 27,000 acre lakeside farm near the resort town of Wanaka.
The ranch is valued at NZ$13 million, or $9 million in American coinage. However, there is a bit of a hitch that could put the transaction in jeopardy: Foreign buyers in New Zealand must meet a number of conditions, including that they “must continue to be of good character.”
Lisa Barrett, deputy chief executive policy and overseas investment for the Overseas Investment Office in New Zealand (a job title in dire need of shortening), said in a statement that her office “is aware that allegations have been made in relation to Matt Lauer and that he is no longer working for NBC News,” according to Bloomberg.
“We are discussing this with his representative and are seeking further information.”
I’m not quite sure what further information is required, given that we already know (allegedly, cough cough) that Lauer had a special button installed in his secluded office so that he could lock the doors and prevent visitors from escaping, that he gave a female co-worker a sex toy along with detailed instructions on how he’d use it on her, that one of his co-hosts found a bag of sex toys in his office, that he exposed himself to a co-worker, and that he once told a female co-worker, “Keep bending over like that. It’s a nice view,” inter alia.
In full disclosure, I’ve never visited New Zealand, so I cannot rightly tell you what constitutes good character in that corner of Oceania. As it so happens, however, one of our senior editors has spent a significant period of time in the country, and I don’t remember her telling us anything about this kind of thing passing as normal or desirable behavior.
However, it doesn’t pass as normal or desirable behavior on the upper half of the globe, either, and Lauer was still able to get away with it for quite some time.
“I don’t know what everyone is so surprised by,” one industry source told Vanity Fair. “This has been going on for months and months and everybody knew it and it was just going to be which girl came forward, and who reported it first.”
Lauer, for his part, has apologized, although he apparently saw fit to use the same copywriter that every other exposed Hollywood degenerate has: “There are no words to express my sorrow and regret for the pain I have cause others by words and actions. To the people I have hurt, I am truly sorry,” Lauer wrote. “As I am writing this I realize the depth of the damage and disappointment I have left behind at home and at NBC.”
Whatever guy keeps on writing these things has a real racket going, let me tell you. At least I’m assuming it’s one guy, since none of these mea culpas differ in any substantive way. Change around a few words and substitute “CBS” for “NBC” and Charlie Rose could be sending this bad boy out through his publicist.
If New Zealand decides that a man exposing himself to women or locking them in corporate offices without their consent isn’t mutually exclusive with “being of good character,” I’m all for Lauer moving there. He’ll be off of our TVs, he won’t be in either of the hemispheres in which we reside, and there’s always the off chance that Frodo and Thorin accidentally wander onto his property and just absolutely beat the stuffing out of him.
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