Chris Liddell, the Kiwi businessman in Donald Trump’s team, has donated $450,000 to the University of Auckland to fund a scholarship to Oxford.

Liddell, who works as an assistant to Trump and director of strategic initiatives in the White House, was ranked the eighth richest member of the Trump administration by The New York Times, with stated assets worth between $105m and $280m.

Liddell’s donation will be used to fund a postgraduate scholarship to Worcester College, Oxford – famous for its prominent alumni including media mogul Rupert Murdoch and actress Emma Watson – each year for the next five years.

Speaking to the Weekend Herald in Auckland this week, Liddell said he was delighted to support a scholarship that fosters a link between the two universities he attended – Auckland and Oxford.

“The New Zealand education system has always been very good to me. Part of my success has been built off the foundation that I had in the New Zealand education system so it’s great to have the opportunity to give back,” said Liddell who holds an engineering degree from the University of Auckland.

“I’m certainly committed to going more than five years if it’s successful.”

The scholarship is available to an outstanding student nearing the end of an undergraduate degree.

Liddell hoped the recipients would have the same positive experience he had at Worcester College, Oxford.

“I hope that we build over time … a cadre of leaders who come back and contribute back to New Zealand as well,” said Liddell.

The first recipient of the scholarship is Johann Go, who planned to further his studies in philosophy and population health at a postgraduate level at Oxford next year.

Go found out he had been awarded the one-year scholarship two days before his 22nd birthday in June.

“It was perhaps the best birthday present I’ve ever had,” he said.

“Oxford is one of the many things my friends and I dreamed about as children actually… and no I probably did not think that I would ever be at Oxford, so it’s a very surreal and a very humbling experience to be able to have this amazing opportunity to go there.”

As well as his outstanding academic results, Go has been heavily involved in the community. This included working for St John Ambulance since he was 11, being a youth adviser to the Upper Hutt City Council and a tutor to high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

He was set to benefit from a year of pure learning and immersion in the Oxford experience, with the freedom to select his own bespoke programme – without the pressure of exams.

Chris Liddell works as an assistant to Donald Trump (left) and is director of strategic initiatives in the White House. Photo / Getty Images

This isn’t the first donation Matamata-born businessman Liddell has made to education.

In 2014, he and his brother donated $1m to their former high school Mt Albert Grammar. His services to philanthropy and business saw him made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2016 New Year Honours list.

His impressive CV includes a stint as chief executive of Carter Holt Harvey, before he relocated to the United States in 2002.

In 2005 he was made chief financial officer for Microsoft, then went on to perform the same job for General Motors, which he helped engineer a US$23b float in 2010 – at the time one of the biggest sharemarket listings in history.

Liddell’s most recent role involves leading the new White House Strategic Development Group, dubbed the “White House think tank”, which has been tasked with bringing Trump’s big picture transformative change items to fruition. He will also interface with private sector forums.

And it seems he is not in it for the money, with the Trump administration disclosing earlier this year that Liddell’s salary was US$30,000 a year, according to National Business Review.

The revelation followed financial disclosures made to the US Office of Government Ethics as part of Liddell’s appointment to the White House, stating he owned assets worth at least $105m.

The disclosures also showed Liddell earned at least $12m last year, mostly from his role as chief financial officer for talent agency William Morris Endeavor. He reportedly purchased a $15m luxury penthouse apartment in Auckland CBD in the same year.

Liddell’s fortune placed him on the National Business Review Rich List this year, with an estimated wealth of $120m.

Source: NZ Herald


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