Business Leader of the Year Finalist: Chris Liddell

This week we celebrate those who are leading the way through the tough times as we count down to naming the New Zealand Herald Business Leader of the Year. The winner will appear in the Weekend Herald on Saturday.

Chris Liddell, GM chief financial officer. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Chris Liddell, GM chief financial officer. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Kiwi executive Chris Liddell has seen his career go from strength to strength since leaving New Zealand in 2002.

But even after several successful years at the top level of the US corporate world, this year's achievements stand out as something quite special.

As chief financial officer at US carmaker General Motors, he and his team have completed the largest public share offer ever. The float raised a record US$23 billion ($30.1 billion) - taking it past the US$22 billion raised in August by Agricultural Bank of China.

Liddell, who has been with GM since January, said it was a huge effort on the part of his finance team which has 2000 employees worldwide.

The float provided the opportunity for the US Government to sell up much of its stake after bailing out the ailing car manufacturer last year.

With taxpayer money at stake there was added pressure to get it right. In the end the float's success was such that President Barack Obama held a special press conference to bask in its glow.

It has been a rare piece of corporate good news in a US economy struggling to recover from the global financial crisis. Liddell has also helped steer the company back into the black after three years of losses which led to bankruptcy in 2009.

He was already credited with overhauling the financial systems at Microsoft in his previous job and that has seen Liddell lauded in some quarters as something of a super CFO. In less than a year at GM he has proved wrong those who thought he was crazy to jump across at a time when the company was near its lowest ebb.

Liddell is a proud New Zealander who retains charitable interests here. But it is success on the international stage which marks him out as a nominee for Business Leader of the Year. Liam Dann

- NZ Herald

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