Chris Liddell divesting himself of Xero shares, options

Kiwi highflier Chris Liddell is in the process of disposing of all his shares and options in Xero, the cloud-based accounting software company he chaired for three years before stepping down in mid-January.

The reason for the sell-off and resignation are the same, according to company founder and chief executive Rod Drury.

“It was part of his being part of the White House – they have to get rid of those sorts of investments ... he told us about that a while ago.”

As was announced last month, Mr Liddell has been appointed as an assistant to US President Donald Trump, a role that will involve the Kiwi expatriate heading up the White House’s strategic development group and taking a lead on the incoming president's big-ticket projects.

The sell-off should in no way be seen as a vote of no-confidence in the company, Mr Drury says.

“Oh, no, no, no. He was actually obviously quite sad to do it because he’s a long-time shareholder,” Mr Drury says.

Despite Mr Liddell’s long association with Xero, the severing of his ties may well come as a relief for the company, given the flak it received following the announcement of his White House appointment.

Although Mr Drury declined to be drawn on the subject, the sale of his Xero shares suggests Mr Liddell is arguably being held to a higher standard than Mr Trump, who has controversially declined to divest himself of his own interests, as previous presidents have.

Instead, he has merely turned over the day-to-day management of The Trump Organization to his two eldest sons and long-time CFO Allen Weisselber for the duration of his presidency.

Transaction tally thus far

Since his White House appointment, Mr Liddell has disclosed share transactions twice.

The first was the sale of 15,000 Xero shares for $19.08 a share, realising $286,258.

The second involved options under Xero’s management incentive scheme. Of the 147,556 options he held, Mr Liddell paid an average of $16.08 to exercise 33,746 of them and the remainder were forfeited. He then sold 12,255 of those shares on the Australian stock exchange at an average $A17.56 a share, realising $A215,265.

As a result of those transactions, his remaining Xero stake is 21,491 shares, worth about $400,000 at current prices.

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