Calvin Ayre: Vancouver resident and billionaire owner of Bodog.com Entertainment Group.
Not that it needs any help. The 46-year-old billionaire owner of Bodog.com Entertainment Group, one of the world’s largest online-gambling websites, is sipping a dry martini in West Vancouver’s Browns Social House, which he used to own, talking to a journalist about mixed martial arts, pretty much the most violent form of legal fighting, which Bodog now promotes. His date, Zara, sips at her own martini, a fruity one, and doesn’t add much to the conversation.
Gambling, fighting, boozing, women and rolling in money – there’s nothing image about this playboy. Ayre is the real thing, and he’s built a formidable business empire around the indulgence of clichéd male passions. “I’m just being me, and I’m confident in my ability to know what the average guy likes. With Bodog I’m just doing that on a bigger scale,” Ayre says. The hour-long interview is videotaped (a non-negotiable condition) for Ayre’s pet project: an online reality show about – who else? – himself. This son of a Saskatchewan pig farmer and one-time Vancouver resident graced Forbes’ cover in 2006 for his spot on its list of billionaires. He hasn’t been on it since; he’d prefer to keep company financials private.
“I can tell you I made the list when we made $200 million, and last year we did $300 million-plus in revenues. You do the math.” He dodges questions about Bodog revenues or the legal grey area online-gambling companies operate in, but Ayre does say Bodog took in $7 billion in bets in 2006 and vows the company will double its business over the next two years. The majority of Bodog’s customers are U.S. residents, although the U.S. Department of Justice is cracking down on online gambling, which is why Ayre doesn’t enter the country or have any U.S. assets. The company is based in Antigua. The website doesn’t accept bets from Canadians, so Ayre has been safe to establish Bodog’s marketing and communications arm, the 500-employee Riptown Media, in Vancouver and a call centre in Burnaby. He also owns a Yaletown penthouse.
After the interview, Ayre and Zara pile into a black Hummer driven by a military-trained sniper and head to the Chief Joe Mathias Centre on the Squamish reserve in North Vancouver, the site of tonight’s Bodog Fight match – the company’s latest offering – to be broadcast on pay-per-view television. (He’s also launched a music division, representing artists including Bif Naked.) The athletes slug it out for the cameras and a few fans who show up in stretch limos. One fight only lasts 57 seconds; when it’s all over, a Russian fighter lies motionless on the mat. A week later, Ayre gets hit by a $48-million default judgment against Bodog for patent infringement on behalf of a Las Vegas company. His site is knocked out of service, but only temporarily. A player always rolls with the punches.