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Oligarch of the Month: Joe Ricketts

Nati Harnik/AP Photo

Whoever said the internet was a young person’s game never met Joe Ricketts. Over the past ten years, the 78-year-old Nebraskan financier and founder of the online brokerage TD Ameritrade has launched popular blogs—Gothamist, DNAinfo, LAist, to name a few—only to shutter them upon learning that his staff had voted to unionize. He has bankrolled guerrilla digital marketing campaigns for such projects as Dinesh D’Souza’s 2010 book The Roots of Obama’s Rage. He has had his own brush with internet virality, after a series of his most noxiously Islamophobic emails were leaked. He has established a YouTube presence. He has even sold bison meat online. But now, like so many others, he’s decamping from the digital realm and getting back to basics with an old-fashioned book.

The Harder You Work, The Luckier You Get, set to debut in November, is a classic American tale of Ricketts’s ascent to the three-comma club. In it, he chronicles his nine years as an undergraduate at Creighton University, and his time as a janitor. He explains how his friends and family staked him five figures to get him started playing stocks online. And he tells of the challenges of fatherhood. Two of his sons, he writes, went into politics, finding refuge in Ricketts’s beloved Republican Party, after he refused to hire them at his company before they turned 30. Pete is now Nebraska’s governor; Todd works for the Republican National Committee.

If adult sons in need of nepotism, family loans, and an enduring dalliance with Dinesh D’Souza all sound familiar, you won’t be especially shocked to hear which candidate Ricketts and the rest of his clan (minus his liberal daughter, Laura) are gearing up to support. Todd Ricketts may not have been TD Ameritrade material, but he’s plenty qualified for his post as finance chair of both the RNC and the Trump Victory Committee. These two high-rolling posts will produce, in the great tradition of net synergy, another outlet for Joe to workshop his writing—not blogs or ads in this case, but the most tried-and-true medium of them all: checks.