Ricketts has also become a hyper-local media mogul. He provided the funding behind DNAinfo.com, a news website covering New York City that launched in November 2009. (While Rickett’s personal biography says he lives in Little Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Capital reports he owns a “massive 78th floor apartment” in the Time Warner Center in New York.) Earlier this month, DNAinfo won six New York Press Club awards.
“He likes the idea of running to a business when others are running away from it,” Editorial Director & Publisher Leela de Kretser said of Ricketts last year, in an interview with Ad Week. “He saw people leaving the news business, and he believes that there is a model there—particularly in the neighborhood model.”
On his bio page on the DNAinfo website, Ricketts provides an email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) for readers to contact him. It also mentions that “though Joe prefers bison to beef, he has a soft spot for the corned beef from the Carnegie and 2nd Avenue delis.”
Finally, there’s the movies. In 2008, Ricketts founded The American Film Company, with a goal to make films that “accurately portray extraordinary characters and events from American history.” Redford’s “The Conspirator” was the company’s first movie, and had a $25 million budget.
“Like so many people my age, you come to a time in your life when you want to take some more free time,” Ricketts told the Times last April, for an article about “The Conspirator.” “Every once in a while I’d say to my wife, ‘Let’s pretend we’re kids, and go get a hamburger and go to a movie.’ Well, we could never find anything we want to see.”
The newspaper said that Redford was impressed by Ricketts.
“He’s a big, strong guy from Omaha, straightforward, like a fullback,” Redford said. “Nothing fancy, very solid, but a great supporter of the film. He only came to the set once, made no presumptions, didn’t interfere. He told me he trusted us to make the film. The only thing was, when we discussed me taking the job, he said: ‘O.K., great, but you have to let me know by this afternoon. I want to leave here knowing whether or not you’re on board.’ He was all business.”
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com