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New Zealand’s incoming prime minister is a wealthy teetotaller and lover of country music who rose to prominence when he ran the national airline. Christopher Luxon was poised to be the country’s 42nd leader on Saturday after his centre-right National Party secured a large lead in general elections. He is expected to take the helm of a two-party coalition with the ACT party, ending six years of Labour rule ushered in by its former “rock star” leader Jacinda Ardern. The 53-year-old Luxon, who claims to sleep only five hours a night, completed a rapid political ascent four years after leaving one of the country’s top executive roles. Luxon spent seven years as chief executive of Air New Zealand, and was hailed a likely future leader upon entering politics in 2019. National hoped he could repeat the “glory days” under John Key, a former Merrill Lynch broker who won three elections for the party and served as prime minister from 2008 to 2016. Key was known for his affable persona — an image fellow multi-millionaire Luxon sought to channel upon replacing Judith Collins as National’s leader in November 2021. Luxon sold himself as a family man with a fondness for do-it-yourself home renovations, waterskiing and country music. He said New Zealand was “heading in the wrong direction” under popular then-prime minister Ardern and that his business acumen was the panacea for a faltering economy. “I came to politics because I know how to solve problems and get things done,” Luxon said in his maiden speech. “I have built a career out of reversing the fortunes of under-performing companies and I’ll bring that real-world experience to this role.” – Global businessman – The eldest of three sons, Christchurch-born Luxon was raised by a Roman Catholic family and met his wife Amanda at a church youth group, aged 15. Luxon earned money as a hotel porter while studying for a master’s of commerce degree at Canterbury University, and attended many of his father Graham’s lectures about sales. His career path accelerated when an internship at multinational consumer goods company Unilever took him around the world as a brand manager. Luxon became president and chief executive of the company’s Canadian operation before turning 40, but he wanted to raise his two children in New Zealand. His time at Air New Zealand was marked by the carrier’s record profit growth aided by a booming tourism industry but also what was described as Luxon’s unrelenting desire for growth — coming at the expense of strained relations with unions. Having forged one of the highest public profiles in New Zealand business, Luxon became a commercial ally of the Key government. The pair became close — Luxon would routinely question Key about political events of the day. Key later said: “In Chris’s case, I was absolutely convinced from one of the very first times that I met him that he not only would be a politician but that he would be prime minister.” – Seven houses – The owner of seven houses, Luxon has found it hard to fend off accusations of being out of touch during a period of financial hardship for many New Zealanders. His beliefs were closely critiqued upon entering parliament, including his conservative view on abortion. Asked in a 2021 television interview whether he believed abortion was “tantamount to murder”, Luxon appeared to agree with the premise: “That’s what a pro-life position is,” he said. He later toned down his response and rejected an evangelical Christian label, describing himself as non-denominational. At ease in public settings, he is seen as less certain in interviews, often resorting to business-speak and prone to the occasional blunder. In June, he was criticised for saying New Zealand had become a “very negative, wet, whiny, inward-looking country and we have lost the plot”.

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