Daily Herald
New Cubs owners bring some diversity - all in the family
By Chuck Goudie | Daily Herald Columnist
Published: 8/24/2009 12:06 AM

If you thought the Chicago Cubs ownership dynamics were frayed the past 28 years, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Ongoing conflicts of interest between the Tribune media company and the Tribune baseball team, along with a recent bankruptcy filing by the Trib, are mere pimples compared to the eruption that may be yet to come.

No doubt this will come as a surprise to those who have read the descriptions of the Ricketts Family that just ironed out an $845 million deal to buy the Cubs.

They have been portrayed as either cornfed bumpkins from Nebraska who struck it rich like Jed Clampett and moved to the big city with their possessions tied to the back of an open farm truck; or as an American Dream family that came to life from a Norman Rockwell painting and now own the red, white and blue Cubbies and their beloved ballpark.

It would appear that neither profile is true.

They are certainly not hayseeds who struck it rich on bubblin' crude. Nor do they carry amber waves of grain into the boardroom.

The moving parts of a family are nobody's business, unless, of course, they become the public's business, such as the Obamas.

Or unless they voluntarily put themselves into a major league franchise that cultivates public allegiance. Now that the Ricketts of Omaha have done that, Cubs fans want - and have a right to know - how every vibration within their family will reverberate on the baseball field.

There are apparently five Ricketts who will have a role in running the Cubs' family business. Only two of them have been out front in the negotiations that led to last week's purchase agreement.

• J. Joseph Ricketts, 67, the billionaire patriarch of the Roman Catholic family. He still resides in Omaha where he grew up. Ricketts made a fortune from a discount stock brokerage when he took it online in 1994.

He issued a written statement expressing how his family is "thrilled" with the culmination of negotiations to buy the most storied (some say haunted) franchises in all of baseball. "The Cubs have the greatest fans in the world and we count our family among them," he wrote.

Something he said about his investment business a few years ago may or may not apply during his tenure as granddaddy of the Cubs' franchise.

"When we're wrong, we tell the customer we're sorry and we pay for it. When we're not wrong, the customer, in all fairness to our shareholders, as responsible managers, the customer has to pay for their own mistakes."

• Tom Ricketts, 43, of Wilmette, who shunned the family business back in Nebraska to make his own way in Chicago. He started an investment bank here and has taken on the most public role during the Cubs talks.

The University of Chicago graduate (MBA, 1993) once lived across from Wrigley Field and says he met his wife in the stands during a game. They now have five children.

During TV appearances the past six months to discuss the economy, Rickets has been very cagey when asked about the team.

• Peter Ricketts, 45. Also holds an MBA from U of C but lives in Omaha. He was the Chief Operating Officer of the family's stock brokerage until 2006 when he ran for the U.S. Senate from Nebraska. A Republican, Pete Ricketts lost to the Democratic incumbent after spending more than $11 million of his own money on the campaign.

He had run on a conservative family values platform and was outspoken against gay marriage. He often said that "Nebraska values" include traditional marriage. That put him at odds with his only sister.

• Laura Ricketts, 41. Philosophy degree from U of C and a law degree from the University of Michigan. Lives on Chicago's southeast side lakefront. Ms. Ricketts is a co- founder of Ecotravel, a Web site company aimed at promoting nature-based travel. She is also on the board of directors of Lambda Legal, a national gay and lesbian rights organization.

Ms. Ricketts, a frequent contributor to Democratic Party candidates and causes, was at odds with her brother's GOP senate bid. During the campaign, Lambda Legal was in court fighting to overturn Nebraska's ban on same-sex marriage.

According to the Wedding Channel Web site, Ms. Ricketts and her partner are currently registered for gifts and list an April 28, 2013 wedding date.

• Todd Ricketts, at 39, is the youngest of the new Cubs' owners. He attended Loyola University in Chicago and currently lives in Wrigleyville. Mr. Ricketts works with his sister at Ecotravel and was co-founded it with her. Neither responded to requests for interviews concerning the Cubs.

Todd Ricketts believes "there is a balance to be found between using resources for our needs today and conserving resources for future generations" according to the firm's Web site.

His bio states that Todd's philosophy is "The world is not black and white, but just many shades of gray."

For the sake of North side baseball fans, we can only hope that he and his family will adjust that to include Cubbie blue.

• Chuck Goudie, whose column appears each Monday, is the chief investigative reporter at ABC 7 News in Chicago. The views in this column are his own and not those of WLS-TV. He can be reached by e-mail at chuckgoudie@gmail.com and followed at twitter.com/ChuckGoudie