As a teenager, Ryan Costanzo worked alongside his childhood buddy, Todd Ricketts, pouring concrete in the summers.
Early Wednesday, the Omahan learned that president-elect Donald Trump had picked Ricketts, an Omaha native whose brother is Nebraska’s governor, to join his administration as deputy commerce secretary.
“It’s just amazing,” said Costanzo, who met Todd Ricketts at Arbor Heights Junior High in Omaha’s Westside district in 1983. “One of our closest friends is going to be working with a president, you know? That’s pretty awesome.”
Trump announced Todd Ricketts’ nomination Wednesday, along with former banker and Hollywood financier Steven Mnuchin as treasury secretary and billionaire industrialist Wilbur Ross to run the Commerce Department.
In a statement, Trump called Ricketts “an immensely successful businessman with unparalleled knowledge of the finance industry.” He said Ricketts will help his administration “cut waste and streamline government so that it works for the people of America.”
Todd Ricketts, 47, is part of the billionaire family that owns the Chicago Cubs. Some family members initially opposed Trump during his bid for president, but Todd Ricketts and others eventually provided financial support.
Ricketts is on the board of the Cubs and is director and CEO of Ending Spending Inc., an organization with a stated goal of addressing the government debt crisis at the federal and state levels.
Ricketts, of Chicago, also manages Higher Gear bike shops in Wilmette and Highland Park, Illinois.
He said he’s honored Trump asked him to serve the country “at this critical juncture in our history.”
“Advancing practical policies that promote economic opportunity is critical to making America great again,” he said.
Costanzo, a 47-year-old park maintenance contractor, called the Ricketts family some of the smartest and hardest working people he’s been around.
He said the Ricketts family helped him get tickets to Game 3 of the World Series at Wrigley Field in Chicago. On Wednesday, Costanzo texted a congratulatory message to Todd Ricketts, who replied that he was driving in Washington, D.C., and would get back to him later.
“They speak their mind,” Costanzo said of the Rickettses. “When they’re not happy, they’ll tell you. When they agree with what you’re saying, they’ll tell you. They don’t beat around the bush.”
Todd and Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts are sons of TD Ameritrade founder and major conservative donor Joe Ricketts. Todd Ricketts joined the board of directors of the TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. in 2011 and served until 2014. He rejoined when Pete Ricketts became governor in 2015.
Gov. Ricketts said Wednesday that his brother would be a “great addition” to Trump’s administration.
“He will use his experience in small, medium and large businesses to help President-elect Donald Trump’s administration encourage job growth as well as cut regulation and red tape for entrepreneurs and job creators,” the governor said.
Todd and Pete’s brother, Tom, is chairman of the Cubs; their sister Laura also serves on the team’s board.
In his statement, Trump praised Todd Ricketts and his family for the “purchase and turnaround of the Chicago Cubs — one perfect step after another, leading to the World Championship.”
Trump’s statement said Ricketts is committed to promoting the values of fiscal responsibility and educating taxpayers on wasteful and excessive government spending.
Ricketts was an at-large delegate for Trump in the Illinois delegation to the Republican National Convention and took part in Chicago area fundraisers for Trump’s campaign, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Ricketts helped raise at least $66 million for pro-Trump outside groups.
His father, Joe Ricketts, gave a pro-Trump super PAC at least $1 million through the end of September, Federal Election Commission filings show.
Joe Ricketts and his wife, Marlene, also contributed nearly $344,000 to support Trump’s campaign and the Republican Party.
Their support for Trump was a reversal from the primaries, when Joe and Marlene Ricketts gave more than $5.5 million to a super PAC that ran a barrage of ads against Trump.
Their financial backing for the group prompted Trump to threaten to expose secrets about the family, tweeting that they “better be careful, they have a lot to hide!”
Joe and Marlene Ricketts originally backed Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for the GOP presidential nomination.
Gov. Ricketts threw his support behind Trump as the primary season wound down and attended a Trump rally in Omaha in May. He was named to Trump’s agricultural and rural advisory committee during the general election campaign.
Born and raised in Omaha, Todd Ricketts graduated from Westside High School in 1987.
He graduated from Loyola University Chicago, where today he serves as a regent.
Todd Ricketts moved back to Omaha for about a year between 1999 and 2000 for a stint at TD Ameritrade as director of business development, said his spokesman Brian Baker. He married his wife, Sylvie, and moved back to Chicago for a business opportunity, he said.
Early in his career, Todd Ricketts worked in the securities industry at the New York City-based NASDAQ start-up, Knight Securities, and later with his family’s businesses, Ameritrade and Incapital.
He continues to manage his own investments and serves as a consultant to many companies he invests in, including Off-Site LLC, a disaster recovery and back-up data center enterprise based in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
With the Cubs, he’s a leader in the “Cubs Charities” community development efforts and, in 2010, starred in one of the highest-rated episodes of the CBS television show “Undercover Boss.”
TD Ameritrade Chairman Joe Moglia said in a statement that Todd Ricketts has served the company’s shareholders well as a member of the company’s board of directors. He’s on the board’s corporate governance, audit, risk and outside independent directors committees.
“Public service has long been a personal passion of his, and we wish him the best as he steps forward to serve his country in this new role,” he said.
Ricketts and his wife live in Wilmette, Illinois, with their three children.
This report contains material from the Washington Post and the Associated Press.