Joe Ricketts, an up-by-the-bootstraps billionaire whose varied holdings include a name-brand brokerage firm in Omaha, a baseball team in Chicago, herds of bison in Wyoming and a start-up news Web site in New York, wanted to be a player in the 2012 election. On Thursday he was, though not in the way he had intended. Word that Mr. Ricketts had considered bankrolling a $10 million advertising campaign linking President Obama to the incendiary race-infused statements of his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., brought waves of denunciation from Mitt Romney, the Obama campaign and much of the rest of the political world. Highlighting the perils of mixing partisan politics and corporate citizenship, the reverberations also swept through the Ricketts family’s business empire.
Liberal groups encouraged like-minded investors to drop their accounts with TD Ameritrade, the brokerage firm Mr. Ricketts founded. His family’s plan to seek public financing for improvements to Wrigley Field, home of their baseball team, the Chicago Cubs, ran into new political opposition. And he was forced to write a letter to reporters at his New York news organization, DNAinfo.com, assuring them he believed that “my personal politics should have absolutely no impact on your work.”
By early afternoon, Mr. Ricketts had announced that he had rejected the ad campaign as out of keeping with his own political style, a day after his aides indicated that it was still under consideration.