Potential opening for Liddell as Trump's chief of staff exits

The NBR Rich Lister, who was named deputy chief of staff in March, could be in the frame for the most influential White House role.

US president Donald Trump is consulting on successors for his chief of staff, John Kelly, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The retired general's departure is expected to be announced as soon as next week.

New Zealander Chris Liddell could be in the frame as a potential replacement in the influential role.

The ambitious Kiwi, earlier dubbed a "genius" by the president, joined the Trump administration as a strategic adviser, and was named deputy chief of staff for policy in March (there are two deputies to Mr Kelly, one for policy and one for operations).

The same month saw the NBR Rich lister on a short-list of two to be the president's chief economic adviser. In the final event, the role went to economist Larry Kudlow.

Mr Kelly became chief of staff a year ago today. He was charged with bringing order to a White House often riven with faction-fighting and chaotic communications. He was credited with the departure of a number of factious advisers, and for overturning an open-access approach to the Oval Office. However, since April there appears to have been growing tension between the president and the retired general, apparently stemming from media reports that Mr Kelly called the president "an idiot."

If he does bag chief of staff, Mr Liddell could prove a voice of moderation – or at least more conventional centre-right orthodoxy than is often seen in the populist Trump administration, according to New Zealand tech industry insiders who are familiar with his apparently blue-green politics today (though it's notable that in his youth he supported Bob Jones' New Zealand Party (Mr Liddell himself has avoided overtly political comments during his rare interviews since entering the White House).

But although the Kiwi is in the picture, he faces competition.

Quoting unnamed insiders, the Journal says the two frontrunners or the job ar Nick Ayers, who serves as chief of staff to Vice-President Mike Pence, and Mick Mulvaney, who heads the Office of Management and Budget as well as serving as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Matamata to the White House
Born in Matamata, Mount Albert Grammar old boy Mr Liddell has an honours degree in engineering from Auckland University and a masters of philosophy from Oxford. Initially an analyst at Credit Suisse First Boston, Mr  Liddell eventually became joint chief executive before he moved to Carter Holt Harvey in the mid-1990s as chief financial officer and then chief executive.

A shift to the US in 2003 as the chief financial officer of International Paper led to Liddell’s big career break when he became Microsoft’s chief financial officer.

Two months after quitting Microsoft in November 2009, Liddell became chief financial officer at an ailing General Motors where he steered the business back to health with a $US23 billion IPO before suddenly leaving within 14 months.

He first gained profile on the US political scene in 2012 as head of Republican candidate Mitt Romney's White House transition team (a role that was ultimately redundant after the Republican lost to Barack Obama)

A stint as Xero chairman was headed off when Mr Liddell was appointed to the Trump White House. He resigned his position and sold his shares in the online accounting company to comply with ethics and conflict-of-interest guidelines – though he was still subject to an investigation into the timing of the sale of his shares in Xero and other companies.

The NBR Rich List values Mr Liddell at $120 million.

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