The head of NZME has apologised after photos emerged of him wearing brown make-up at a fancy dress party in 2015.

Michael Boggs dressed as basketballer Lamar Odom at the company's "newsworthy characters" Christmas party in 2015.

Odom - at the time married to reality star Khloe Kardashian - had been in the headlines after being hospitalised.

"I did not connect my choice of personality to any potential racial issues," Boggs said in a statement.

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"At the time, Lamar Odom was driving headlines across global media. I was looking at the news agenda and dressed as a personality who was in the news."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scrambling to halt further damage to his re-election campaign after a string of "blackface" and "brownface" pictures from his past put him at the centre of a scandal.

In a message to NZME staff, Boggs said hearing that story "prompted me to reflect on a character I dressed up as at our fancy-dress Christmas party in 2015".

He was called by a news organisation which had been sent photos.

"We're not sure where the more than 3-year-old photos were dredged up from," Boggs said.

Boggs joined NZME, publisher of the New Zealand Herald, in March 2015 as chief financial officer and was appointed chief executive officer in March 2016.

In his statement, he said: "I'm not aware that any concerns were raised back in late 2015 with my choice.

"However, society is moving quickly and positively to one that is much more sensitive to and aware of conscious and unconscious racism.

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"With the benefit of hindsight, getting made up that way was the wrong thing to do and I apologise for that. I would not make the same choice again."