In politics as in business, timing is everything.
Three top-flight businessmen — Walmart's Greg Foran, who was yesterday confirmed as Air New Zealand's next CEO; Mercury's Fraser Whineray, who will target="_blank">jump ship to Fonterra; and former Air NZ CEO Chris Luxon, who has finally declared for a National Party candidacy — have each, in their own way, embraced risk this week by opting for career changes.
Each of these men could have opted for the three Bs — the bach, the Beamer and the boat — but instead are forging new careers.
• How big a catch is Greg Foran for Air New Zealand?
• Market welcomes appointment of Fraser Whineray to Fonterra executive team
• Matthew Hooton: Luxon's move could sabotage National in 2020
• John Key backs Christopher Luxon as National Botany candidate
It's arguable Luxon has already made enough of what a wealthy former politician of my acquaintance used to call the "FU stuff" — sufficient personal wealth to be able to afford to take a financial haircut and pursue a more risky and potentially less lucrative career in politics. He also has enough natural ability to be able to afford to pull the plug if his contribution has been stymied or he runs out of steam, instead of keeping a seat warm simply to earn an MP's salary.
This ability to embrace risk should be applauded.
It is in marked contrast to the track record of the professional politicians who go pretty much straight from university to work in political party offices or for cabinet ministers or political leaders before entering Parliament, and for the less-talented seat warmers who litter Parliament.
It is by no means a lay down misere that Luxon will get the Botany nomination.
The bashing has already started.
Luxon is said to have potentially damned National's — and leader Simon Bridges' — chances at next year's election simply by contesting Botany. The counter-view — which is my view — is he may have enhanced it by challenging the party to embrace talented outsiders rather than run scared of what they bring to the table.
It's no secret the National Party hierarchy is seeking some excellent candidates for some "safe" electorates now up for grabs as a result of MP retirements. Luxon is a student of politics and has been known as a progressive business leader.
He was shoulder-tapped to join Air New Zealand. But his initial brief was international operations, not CEO. If he had not performed, he would not have got the top job. Same deal with politics.
Whineray is also in an interesting position.
He will segue from CEO of Mercury, where he has been an outstanding success, to be chief operating officer at Fonterra next year.
Inevitably, questions have been raised about his long-term ambitions.
The business sector has applauded the move, recognising his appointment adds strength to CEO Miles Hurrell's team. Whineray is an experienced CEO and will bring substantial energy to the leadership team.
But, as with Luxon's initial appointment to Air New Zealand, Whineray will have to prove himself over time to be a strong internal candidate at the next CEO rotation.
What the Whineray appointment does is provide proof positive the Fonterra board is actively seeking to ensure Hurrell is surrounded by strong New Zealand leaders and a succession pipeline is built so next time, the company does not opt first for an international candidate over homegrown talent when it goes to the market for a CEO.
Air New Zealand is in a different position.
Foran — who professes to be the "chap who goes on about the unvarnished truth" as part of his own principled approach to business — leaves a major role at Walmart USA where he is president and chief executive of the retail giant's US operations. That he is prepared to leave behind reported US$13.4million ($21m) salary (more than four times what Luxon was paid) shows an appetite for challenge is what drives him rather than the pay packet.
That said, Foran's net worth was put at at least $US69.1m in June.
At Luxon's farewell at Auckland's HI-SO rooftop bar last month, former chair Tony Carter told how senior executive Mike Tod was deputed to fly to Canada to check out the budding new hire and his wife Amanda, to see if they were a good fit for the airline before the appointment took place.
Tod is likely to catch up with Foran before his arrival back in New Zealand to take up the reins at Air NZ next year. But he was already a known quantity before the appointment was made.
Three stellar businesspeople all ready to put their shoulder to the wheel and embrace new challenges. This has to be good for New Zealand.