Billionaire Joe Ricketts Shut Down by Wyoming Commission

Billionaire Joe Ricketts suffered a setback in his effort to reshape a rural Wyoming valley last week, after the local board of commissioners shot down his latest development proposal—prompting onlookers to erupt with applause.

The billionaire’s ambitions have riled up Sublette County residents for more than a year. In Dec. 2021, he narrowly won approval to build a luxury resort on his ranch in Bondurant (population: 108), which sparked outrage and litigation that ultimately went Ricketts’ way.

“This is a small community, and I feel that he stomped on all of us,” one resident told The Daily Beast at the time of the approval.

Another observer, Joshua Coursey, added, “It was shocking to me that it passed because there was nobody there other than Mr. Ricketts’ camp that spoke in favor of it.”

That ship may have sailed, but residents can take consolation in the shifting dynamics on the county board. According to local outlet WyoFile, three out of five commissioners have historically voted with Ricketts. At last week’s meeting, however, commissioner Sam White unexpectedly joined the minority and rejected the bid to modify property near “the riverbank at the head of the Upper Hoback River.” Ricketts was seeking to build a “restaurant, gymnasium, bunkhouse and cabin village,” the outlet said.

“Your application is denied at this time,” White announced to Ricketts’ team.

Doug Vickrey, who also voted against the proposal, was more forceful. “Remember that some things are not for sale,” he said, reportedly quoting the Wyoming State Code. “Folks, I’m going to tell you right now, I am one of those things. I am not for sale. So, I would like Mr. Ricketts to know that with all his wealth there are some things in this world money cannot buy, and by God I’m one of them.”

Ricketts, 81, is worth an estimated $3.4 billion, according to Forbes. He owes the bulk of his fortune to online brokerage TD Ameritrade, whose predecessor he launched in 1975. Spokespeople for the billionaire did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tensions are high in many communities across the Mountain West, which have increasingly become dominated by wealthy interlopers, particularly since the onset of the pandemic.

During last week’s hearing, local journalist Joy Ufford commented on that trend in Sublette County (after receiving clearance from her editor), WyoFile reported. “[If] I don’t say something I’m never going to forgive myself,” she said. “I’m going to be sick, sick, sick if Bondurant is sacrificed as a stepping stone to Jackson.”

Reached for comment by The Daily Beast, Vickrey declined to elaborate on his rebuke of the billionaire, saying he needed to be careful about making public comments because the county board would likely face down Ricketts in the future.

“I’m not sure we’ve seen the end of it,” he said. Then, he quickly added, “I know we haven’t.”

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