Matt Lauer says his neighbors are 'taking advantage' of him during 'difficult times'

Raechal Shewfelt
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment

Matt Lauer’s post-Today life has not been smooth.

In a rare interview on Tuesday, the former morning show host blamed the sexual harassment scandal that led to his firing in November 2017 for causing him a problem at home — and not just relating to his divorce.

The issue has to do with his ranch in New Zealand, which he bought for the equivalent of $9 million about nine months before accusations against him surfaced, and whether Lauer will allow hunters, hikers, and fishers to cross his property to get to a public park. The trouble, it seems, is that a 25-mile gravel road on Lauer’s 16,000 acres is essentially the only way to get to the park. The issue of public access has reportedly been debated for years.

Matt Lauer on Today on Nov. 1, 2017. (Photo: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

“Otherwise, it’s a long way to carry a deer,” Eric Pyle, the leader of a government commission seeking more access to Lauer’s ranch, told the New York Times.

Pyle has turned to New Zealand’s Commissioner of Crown Lands to rule on whether Lauer must allow more access. The Times reports that Lauer’s local lawyer, Graeme Todd, said Lauer would appeal any future ruling against him in the courts. If Lauer loses, Todd said, he will seek compensation, as allowed by law, and will want “hundreds of thousands.”

Lauer himself addressed the situation on Radio New Zealand’s Checkpoint With John Campbell. He said he believes that the people asking for more access to his property than he agreed to give when he bought it are exploiting his ongoing personal problems.

“In the year and a half or year-plus that I’ve owned it, I’ve invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to improve the property, and now a year later they come and say, ‘Oh, wait a minute, we granted you this lease under this set of rules. We’d like to change the rules,'” Lauer said. “I don’t think that’s fair.”

He added, “I believe the groups that are behind this are in some ways unfortunately taking advantage of some difficult times I’ve been through over the past six months, and I think they see me as an easy mark. And what they’re going to try to do is put this through, which would set a precedent because this has not been done ever before with a pastoral lease holder or property owner without that person’s consent.”

Lauer insisted that he’s gone through this process just as he was supposed to. He hasn’t “demanded a cent,” he said, although he would “explore” the idea of compensation.

The dispute comes at a time when Lauer plans to spend more time on his ranch, a source told ET.

“It’s a priority for him to get to New Zealand and spend some time away from the States,” the source said. “He’s still leaning on longtime friends for support, people who have stood by his side and know him as a person.”

At the same time, Lauer is also going through a divorce. He and his wife of 20 years, Annette Roque, split earlier this year, but that’s also been an ongoing problem. Us Weekly reported last week that his divorce is almost final, but it’s costing him plenty.

“He’s going to be forking out around $50 million” in cash and property, a source told Us Weekly, including a “one-time payment of $25 million.”

Lauer was fired from his longtime role as Today anchor after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment last fall. He apologized on air, although he said not all the allegations were true.

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