Another billionaire is stirring up trouble with their neighbors, this time in rural Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park; Joe Ricketts
The billionaire Joe Ricketts hoped to get around wildlife stipulations in the construction of a luxury resort in Wyoming.Getty Images
  • The billionaire Joe Ricketts is building a luxury resort in Wyoming to the dismay of some locals.

  • Ricketts' request to bypass wildlife protections was denied by Sublette County.

  • He's far from the only billionaire who has clashed with their neighbors.

As one local put it, if Bondurant, Wyoming — a town of wide-open spaces and a population of 156, per the 2022 census — "is not heaven, it's in the same ZIP code."

"It's God's country," Joshua Coursey continued to Business Insider. He's the CEO and president of the Muley Fanatic Foundation, which is dedicated to protecting the native mule deer.

And in God's country, it looks like mule deer will remain protected.

In a plotline straight out of Paramount's soapy western "Yellowstone," the billionaire Joe Ricketts — the TD Ameritrade founder, part-owner of the Chicago Cubs, and Donald Trump megadonor — got shut down by Sublette County, Wyoming, where he had requested the removal of a local restriction meant to protect moose, elk, and mule deer.

Earlier this spring, Ricketts, who, according to Forbes, is worth $4.1 billion, broke ground on the luxury Homestead Resort, which was set to feature a 20-unit hotel, underground spa, and restaurant. He calls it "Little Jackson Hole," though, in reality, the billionaire hot spot Jackson Hole is in neighboring Teton County.

"If I advertise as Bondurant, well, nobody in Los Angeles and New York knows where it is," Ricketts, who bought land in the area 20 years ago, said at a public meeting last year, the local-news outlet WyoFile reported. "But if I advertise Little Jackson Hole, every angler knows where it is. Northwest Wyoming is a mecca for fishing trout."

(He's also pointed to the historical name of the area as a guiding principle for the name, though it doesn't seem locals are buying it.)

Part of his pitch was a conservation effort associated with the resort: Ricketts promised to make the 56 acres a safe place for animals and to use tourism dollars to ensure the land stayed safe.

"We will open up corridors across my ranch during the migration season so that the ungulates can go through," he said at last year's meeting, the Nebraska Examiner reported. "Now remember, I told you, we have to get tourists to pay for this stuff in order for it to be successful." (It's unclear if anyone at the meeting asked why he can't pay for the corridors with his own money, as he had previously donated to the cause.)

In order to get tourists there, he'd have to build a hotel, but according to the proposal by a representative for Ricketts at a town meeting last week, the best way to build a safe haven for the ungulates of the West would be to sidestep some of the rules protecting them — specifically, the one that prevents construction between November 15 and April 30.

The representative proposed that wildlife protections should be put on pause to allow construction to continue this fall and winter, with certain measures in place, such as a speed limit, no work once the sun had gone down, and maintaining a corridor in which the animals could move.

Though the regional-wildlife coordinator for Wyoming Game and Fish supported the proposal, Ricketts' neighbors were another story, the Examiner said.

"Does anybody in this room actually believe that after three years the construction is going to stop?" one local said, adding that Ricketts took the approach of "a used car salesman."

In the end, the irked neighbors got their way: The Sublette County Commission voted 3 to 2 against Ricketts.

It was "much to the liking of everybody that understands and appreciates why those rules are in place and the importance of not having that disturbance on the landscape when those critters are most vulnerable," Coursey said.

Ricketts, whose representatives did not comment prior to publication, is joining a long tradition of billionaires upsetting a bunch of less-rich locals for any host of reasons. These quarrels often spin out into lawsuits.

Utah's richest man, the tech billionaire Matthew Prince, is embroiled in a legal battle with his Park City neighbors, who are trying to prevent him from constructing a modern megamansion above the city's historic town. (Prince has filed a lawsuit against two of his neighbors that revolves heavily around their Bernese mountain dogs. He seemed to admit to The Daily Beast that the suit was retaliatory.)

Bill Gross, a billionaire bond investor, was sued in 2020 by his Laguna Beach, California, neighbor for, in part, blasting the "Gilligan's Island" theme song and installing a $1 million Dale Chihuly sculpture. Gross said the music was not an effort to purposefully annoy anyone, but a judge sided against him.

Since 2008, the venture-capital billionaire Vinod Khosla has been involved in some sort of legal back-and-forth after attempting to block the public from using his Bay Area property to access a neighboring beach.

This wasn't even the first time Ricketts had upset residents of the rural Wyoming county. His bid to rezone his land to build a hotel was shot down twice before being approved in 2021, and last year, a request to expand the size of the resort was denied.

"He's like a little boy, and he wants all the toys. That's what I kind of equate it to," one local told The Daily Beast about Ricketts at the time.

Still, Coursey pointed out that the upheaval associated with building a resort like this in the relatively unspoiled landscape of Wyoming would always be a "tough pill to swallow" for locals. "That's just not something that's ever going to be well received, whether it was Mr. Ricketts or the next billionaire with a big dream and a big plan."

And in the end, Ricketts is getting his big dream and big plan, just not when he wants it. Estimates at the town hall suggested that the hotel would now take six years rather than three to build.

Read the original article on Business Insider