WASHINGTON – Unable to untangle his complex financial holdings to the satisfaction of the Office of Government Ethics, Cubs board member Todd Ricketts, tapped by President Donald Trump to be the Deputy Commerce Secretary, on Wednesday withdrew his nomination.
Ricketts, a Wilmette resident who is a member of the billionaire Ricketts clan, was willing to divest his considerable personal portfolio of holdings, but that was apparently not enough.
Some of the Ricketts investments are in family enterprises, with the Cubs and TD Ameritrade being the best known.
“I am deeply honored that President Trump nominated me to serve as Deputy Secretary of Commerce,” Ricketts told the Sun-Times in an email.
“I offer my continued support for President Trump and his administration, and the important work they are doing to promote economic opportunity. I hope there are other opportunities to contribute to his administration in the future.”
A source familiar with Ricketts’ finances told the Sun-Times, “he could not unravel the overlapping family holdings that obviously include the Cubs” and other assets derived from owning the team.
Other Trump administration posts — not in Commerce — may present potential conflict-of-interest issues that are more easily resolved for Ricketts.
Trump nominated Ricketts on Nov. 30 for the number two spot in Commerce, which required Senate confirmation.
Ricketts filed financial disclosures with the Senate Commerce Committee, but the panel would not set a hearing date until Ricketts obtained clearance from the Office of Government Ethics – which oversees the executive branch, with the exception of the president.
Ricketts has varied business interests, from his “Higher Gear” bike store in Wilmette to the Cubs to his position on the TD Ameritrade board.
The Ricketts family are large shareholders of TD Ameritrade, the company family patriarch Joe Ricketts, a billionaire, founded in 1975.
Ricketts and his three siblings are also on the Cubs board, legally known as Chicago Baseball Holdings LLC. Brother Pete is the GOP governor of Nebraska. Sister Laura is a prominent activist Democrat. Brother Tom is the Cubs chairman.
Trump gave a hat-tip to the Cubs 2016 World Series win when he said in a Nov. 30 statement that Ricketts “is an immensely successful businessman with unparalleled knowledge of the finance industry.”
“As Deputy Commerce Secretary he will help us cut waste and streamline government so that it works for the people of America. The incredible job he and the Ricketts family did in the purchase and turnaround of the Chicago Cubs – one perfect step after another, leading to the World Championship, is what I want representing our people. I am very proud to have him on our team,” Trump said.
Until he was nominated, Ricketts presided over the political operations of the GOP wing of the Ricketts family, becoming increasingly more active and public in the political arena in the past few years.
In 2013, Ricketts took the baton from his father and became CEO of organizations the senior Ricketts founded to advocate for conservative fiscal policies and reducing the size of government: Ending Spending’s SuperPAC and its nonprofit advocacy arm.
Trump’s nominee to be Army Secretary, Vincent Viola, the billionaire owner of the Florida Panthers hockey team, withdrew his name in February because of what his spokesman said were “insurmountable” challenges of separating himself from his business interests.