Joe Ricketts built brokerage giant TD Ameritrade from the ground up in the American heartland, becoming a self-made billionaire and creating thousands of jobs in the process. In 2017, he again exemplified the American Dream by firing a bunch of whiny ingrates.
The Omaha entrepreneur launched DNAinfo in 2009, seeking to create quality local reporting in major cities like Chicago and New York City. In March 2017, he also purchased Gothamist and its affiliates.
Despite the difficulty local news sites perpetually faced in turning a profit, Gothamist and DNAInfo staff moved toward unionizing. Ricketts repeatedly warned staff that if they made the move, the site would become prohibitively expensive.
The site's publishers told reporters that "I think Joe Ricketts says what he means," and "It sure would be horrible if everybody lost their jobs because of what you guys are doing."
After the staff voted to unionize, it turned out Joe Ricketts said what he meant and everybody lost their jobs as a result of their foolish actions.
Ricketts showed a humble and charitable grace. Rather than slowly letting the site die and having his employees stuck in dead-end jobs, Ricketts fired them all without warning and gave them severance. Rather than leave his former employees with painful memories of their prior employment, Ricketts purged the websites entirely.
While the world has been robbed of details about which Georgetown bakery makes the best cupcake for under $20 and how Pizza Rat totally exemplifies the struggle of regular Manhattanites, we appreciate the benevolence of Joe Ricketts in trying to keep those stories alive.
"DNAinfo is, at the end of the day, a business, and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure," he wrote after the closures. Well said. In recognition of his teaching hundreds of urbanite reporters the intricacies of business management, the Washington Free Beacon awards is proud to name Joe Ricketts a 2017 Man of the Year.