'Today' show host left $65 in W.Va.
State Treasurer John Perdue may have inspired a new segment for NBC's "Today" show Thursday morning: "Where in the world is Matt Lauer's money?"
The "Today" host, whose journalism career once crisscrossed West Virginia's country roads, learned Thursday he's got a $65 check waiting for him at the state Capitol in Charleston. All he has to do is go claim it.
Perdue's office had tried to contact Lauer directly, to no avail.
So on Wednesday, they tried a new tactic - they sent out a press release announcing Lauer had unclaimed property in the state.
"It's not uncommon that small checks get buried over time, even if the person is well known," Perdue said. "After all, he wasn't so well known when he left the money behind."
The news release was picked up in Thursday's edition of the Wall Street Journal. Lauer's "Today" show colleagues read the story in the paper and had Perdue call the morning show to let Lauer know what he left behind.
"We had no idea about this until we happened to see it in the newspaper this morning," Lauer said on "Today."
Before he gained fame interviewing presidents and celebrities and traveling to far-flung regions of the world, Lauer was a just a lowly intern at WOWK-TV in Charleston.
Lauer actually left journalism school at Ohio University four credits shy of graduating to take the intern job in 1979. (The university later awarded him a bachelor's degree in 1997).
After working off-camera for a year, Lauer became an on-air reporter for the Charleston station in early 1980.
The show's staff used the opportunity to poke some fun at Lauer by broadcasting some old WOWK footage showing a fresh-faced Lauer - complete with a full head of hair - broadcasting from in front of the state Capitol in Charleston.
"As Matt went on to bigger things, he apparently left some money behind," co-host Savannah Guthrie said.
"Along with his hair," weatherman Al Roker joked.
Lauer's local TV stint was short lived. The New York City native left WOWK in October 1980 for a job closer to home - apparently leaving behind his wallet in the process.
Perdue said the $65 was from an old Bank One checking account Lauer apparently forgot to close when he left.
"I had to leave the state in a hurry," Lauer joked on-air Thursday morning.
Lauer bounced around between jobs at stations all along the East Coast over the next decade. He joined the NBC News team in 1994 and in January 1997, Lauer was tapped to succeed Bryant Gumbel as co-host of "Today."
The $65 haul would still be a lot for most struggling journalists these days.
Not so for Lauer.
The veteran morning show anchor just inked a deal with NBC guaranteeing him a comfortable $25 million salary. According to a report from the London Daily Mail, Lauer is also beginning to build a $3.5 million horse stable at his home on Long Island.
That's not something he would have been able to do with his $140-per-week paycheck at WOWK.
With $65 looking like loose change for Lauer these days, Perdue said he could use the money to revisit his roots in the Mountain State.
"He could at least have a dinner here in West Virginia," Perdue said. "We'd love for him to come back and enjoy West Virginia again."
Lauer had a better idea, though.
"We're going to take that amount, increase it substantially and we're going to make a donation to the United Way of Central West Virginia," he said.
It's not clear how much Lauer will increase the donation to, but United Way of Central West Virginia President John Ballengee said they were thrilled about the recognition.
"Since Matt got his TV journalism start here in central West Virginia, it was nice to hear that he will honor this area with a donation to the local campaign," Ballengee said.
The central West Virginia United Way helped nearly 68,000 people in Boone, Clay, Logan, Kanawha and Putnam counties last year by increasing access to education, promoting financial stability and independence and improving people's health.
"We are all successful because of our local communities and Matt is recognizing that his success started right here," he said.
Lauer is not the only famous former state resident with unclaimed property.
Treasurer's Office records show former West Virginia University football coach Rich Rodriguez and popular TV evangelist T.D. Jakes also have unclaimed property in state possession.
Individuals can search West Virginia's unclaimed property database to see if they have any outstanding money or property waiting to be claimed.
They can search for and claim the property by visiting the Treasurer's website, www.wvtreasury.com.
Contact writer Jared Hunt at email@example.com or 304-348-5148.