Chris Liddell's journey from Matamata to the White House has seen him amass a nine-figure net worth, according to financial disclosures made to the US Office of Government Ethics.

Liddell made the disclosures, stating he owned assets worth between $105m and $280m, as part of his appointment as director of strategic initiatives for the White House Strategic Development Group.

His extensive shareholdings have already drawn flak in the United States, with watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington complaining Liddell did not move quickly enough to sell shares in companies whose executives he discussed policy with.

The disclosures - amounting to 119 pages - also show Liddell has little debt, listing four credit cards with as little as $135,000 owing as his only liabilities.


During the period preceding the fillings, Liddell sold down many individual shareholdings, including six-figure stakes in NZX firms Auckland International Airport and Xero, and his single largest asset is a stake in an exchange-traded fund run by MSCI worth at least $35m.

The bulk of Liddell's assets are held in a trust for the benefit of his wife and stepchildren and include Buffalo Jump Ranch, a $30m personal residence in Montana, and a share in a Mangawhai forestry block worth up to $7m.

Contacted for comment, Liddell yesterday said: "I appreciate you reaching out but I don't have any comment."

The disclosures also show Liddell earned at least $12m last year, mostly from his role as chief financial officer for talent agency William Morris Endeavor. His earnings from this far outstripped the $450,000 he earned chairing local software firm Xero.

Liddell became well-known in New Zealand business circles in the 1990s, rising through the ranks to become chief executive of Carter Holt Harvey, before he relocated to the United States in 2002 to climb larger corporate ladders.

In 2005 he was appointed chief financial officer of Microsoft, then performed the same job for General Motors - helping engineer a record US$23b refloat of the company after the turbulence of the global financial crisis.

He had maintained links to New Zealand, mainly through philanthropic and conservation groups, serving as director of the Next Foundation, Rotoroa Island Trust, Project Janszoon, Predator Free 2050, Pure Advantage and the New Zealand Olympic Committee's fundraising arm in America. The disclosure filings show all these ties were severed in January.

He is believed to have become interested in Republican politics via his third wife, Renee Harbers, and had been lined up to serve in the administration of Mitt Romney had he defeated Barack Obama in 2012.


While Liddell will now vault onto the National Business Review rich list, the New York Times reports he is only the eighth-richest member of the Trump administration.

Liddell is broadly seen by Washington political observers as being part of a business-friendly faction of industry barons led by Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, and he was expected to be part of a small team assembled to cut federal government spending.

The Kushner grouping is considered to be a counterweight to the populist radicalism championed by White House strategist Steve Bannon.