Air New Zealand has named Greg Foran, the head of the US division of retail giant Walmart, as its next CEO.

Foran, a New Zealander, is currently president and CEO of Walmart US, the major division of Walmart Inc. The parent is regarded as the world’s largest company as measured by revenue, with global revenue of more than $500 billion last year. Foran will take over Air New Zealand in the first quarter of 2020.

The decision was announced by the Air New Zealand board on Oct. 11. Board chair Therese Walsh said the company is “thrilled to have attracted a world-class Kiwi back home.” She cited Foran’s record in “delivering strong commercial performance, outstanding customer focus and in building teams that can take a business to the next level.”

Air New Zealand is currently being led by acting CEO Jeff McDowall, who is also CFO. Former CEO Christopher Luxon announced his resignation on June 19 and stepped down at the airline’s annual meeting on Sept. 25. This week, he announced that he will be entering politics by standing for a seat in parliament in the 2020 General Election.

The carrier conducted a global recruitment to find a successor, and is believed to have interviewed some high-caliber internal and external candidates. McDowall was not seeking the permanent CEO role.

Foran joined Walmart in 2011 and was CEO of Walmart China, then Walmart Asia, before becoming CEO of the US division in 2014. Before joining Walmart, he worked for retail company Woolworths in Australia and New Zealand.

In a separate statement issued by Walmart, Foran said, “It is bittersweet to leave Walmart, but this incredible opportunity to lead an iconic Kiwi brand was one I could not pass up, and I’m looking forward to this next chapter.” He will stay on at Walmart until Jan. 31 to help with the transition to his successor.

Foran “made a huge difference for Walmart,” the parent corporation’s CEO Doug McMillon said. “He built a strong plan from the beginning to strengthen the US business—a plan that made significant choices around investing in wages and benefits for associates and investing in price for customers.”

Luxon’s background before coming to Air New Zealand was somewhat similar. He was CEO of the Canadian division of global consumer retail group Unilever, before returning to New Zealand to head the airline’s international operation in 2011.

Inset: Walmart CEO Greg Foran. Credit: Walmart

Adrian Schofield, adrian.schofield@informa.com