11 Feb 2017

Matt Nippert: uncovering a billionaire's bolthole

From Saturday Morning, 8:12 am on 11 February 2017
Matt Nippert and Peter Thiel

Matt Nippert and Peter Thiel Photo: Supplied / RNZ

Matt Nippert was the journalist who broke the story that US billionaire Peter Thiel had gained New Zealand citizenship and tens of millions of dollars in profit from a NZ taxpayer-funded scheme.

The most unusual factor in Thiel’s case is that he was granted citizenship – rather than residency – Nippert says. He could find no other similar case involving wealthy businessmen becoming automatic NZ citizens.

“Stepping it up to citizenship is the really unusual factor in this case.”

“The two key qualifications for citizenship that Thiel didn’t meet are some of the most basic ones – have you ever lived in New Zealand, and do you intend to live here? He was honest enough to say no to both of those. That is very unusual.”

Why an extremely famous technology billionaire would take up a secret third citizenship in New Zealand remains a mystery, he says.

“We know he loves Lord of the Rings and has named his companies Valar, Mithril and Palantir, but he’s also a great fan of Peter Pan because his New Zealand holding company is called Second Star. And I’m wanting to know whether this has any bearing on a desire to never grow up through various life-extension technologies.”

Theil seems to have decided he won't discuss his newfound New Zealandness, yet Nippert says he is still trying to get an interview.

“We do want to know why he’s a citizen.”

Matt Nippert has spent the past decade in news-breaking roles at the New Zealand Listener, National Business Review, Herald on Sunday, Sunday Star-Times and the NZ Herald. His work has won numerous awards and he is the reigning Canon Reporter of the Year.