Chris Liddell appointed to the White House
In an unparalleled achievement for a New Zealander, Chris Liddell has been appointed to one of the most senior roles in the White House, Assistant to the President. He will commence in his new role in Washington D.C. following President-elect Donald J. Trump’s inauguration on January 20.
New York-based Liddell has been playing a key role on the Trump transition as Special Advisor on Presidential Appointments. He wrote the playbook for presidential transitions – The Romney Readiness Project – after being executive director of the transition preparatory team during the 2012 U.S. elections.
Liddell’s role is at the core of the new Administration’s program. He will be Director of Strategic Initiatives, leading a series of high impact task forces and effecting substantive change including system wide improvement to the performance of the government.
“It is an honor to take on this role for the President-elect and the Country,” said Liddell.
An American resident for the past 14 years, Liddell played a pivotal role in restoring confidence in the US auto industry by leading the company’s U.S. $23 billion Initial Public Offering PO for General Motors, where he served as Chief Financial Officer and Vice President. The IPO was the largest-ever at the time. He re-organized the company’s finances and stabilized the company for the benefit of over 200,000 employees, the US government, and communities across America.
He was previously Global Chief Financial Officer for Microsoft, overseeing corporate strategy, acquisitions, treasury activities, tax planning, accounting and reporting, internal audits and investor relations. Most recently he was CFO of global sports, entertainment and media agency WME/IMG.
Born in Matamata in 1958 the youngest of five children, Liddell’s father was teacher/headmaster at Horahora school in the Waikato. He attended Onewhero District School in South Auckland, Edendale Primary and Balmoral Intermediate, Auckland, Mt Albert Grammar where was dux and First XV flanker, completed an engineering degree of Auckland University, and Oxford University where he graduated an MPhil following study in economics and management.
For a decade he was an investment banker for legendary New Zealand stockbroking company Jarden & Co, which became CS First Boston. Between 1995 and 2002 he was CFO then CEO of natural resources company Carter Holt Harvey, leading to a global CFO role at parent company International Paper based in Stamford, Connecticut.
Liddell has a reputation as a global-level big picture thinker, adept at navigating very large organizations through transformational change. He will bring to the White House a cool, analytical head grounded in a New Zealand upbringing, education and leadership experience. Throughout his time in the U.S. Liddell has maintained an active New Zealand portfolio of activities, including chairmanship of leading cloud accounting software company Xero, chair of education and environmental philanthropy organization NEXT Foundation, and other contributions to not-for-profit boards and sport. He was made Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) in 2016 for his contribution to business and philanthropy.
Liddell was a prime mover in the formation of the New Zealand Institute, an innovative think tank which influenced both debates and policy formulation to improve economic prosperity, social well-being, environmental quality and environmental productivity. He was also an instigator of the Knowledge Wave conference in 2001 which set out the opportunities and challenges for New Zealand in a digital age.
As early as August 2015 Liddell predicted a Trump win in the presidential election. In a November 2016 interview with TVNZ’s Corin Dann about his role in the Trump transition he said that the election of Trump is “one of the most significant events in my lifetime… this is Brexit times 10. It’s a lot of the same issues. Brexit wasn’t a vote for whether you were in or out of the EU. It was a vote against the establishment government and the inability of the current government configuration to solve the big issues of our time. So I think this is monumental, not because of whether it’s President Trump or not, but what it says about people’s belief in our government going forward.”
Liddell went on to say that “The biggest issue is what are the underlying issues we’re facing as a country and as a world, and how is the Trump presidency going to address those? People should be focusing not on the short-term and all the noise and the theater, but on the long term and what the presidency might mean for the big issues that we face as a country.
“When you look at those big issues, if you aren’t solving the inequality issue; if you aren’t dealing with the hollowing out of the middle class; if you aren’t facing big issues which affect people emotionally, like immigration, then you are blind to the big issues that we’re dealing with…so I think you are going to see trade protectionism and driving towards jobs for the middle class, and retraining in the middle class is going to be one of the big policies of any successful government going forward…The way in which President Trump and his administration address those issues, not all that hyperbole, that will define whether they’re successful or not.”