A Glimpse inside the Lair of the Billionaire

May 18, 2007

From his toilet, Calvin Ayre can see the golf course that rolls right up to the wispy evergreen trees on the edge of his backyard. From his office, he can take just a few steps and be knee-deep in his custom-built swimming pool, which, through wind-rippled water, reads Bodog across its floor.

Bodog, the name of the gambling Web site that has propelled Ayre, 44, into billion dollar fortune and fame, is also engraved onto the forks of his 2003 Anniversary Edition Harley Davidson Softtail, parked in his living room, and temporary-tattooed on the forearms of Esteban Céspedes, Costa Rica’s best – and the world’s second-best – foosball player, who clacks away at the foosball table in front of Ayre’s personal gym on this sunny Wednesday morning.

Ayre, a Canadian, invited The Tico Times into his home in Santa Ana, west of San José, this week for an exclusive interview, still a little annoyed with other Costa Rican media following last Friday’s police raid on his home (see separate article). According to Ayre, details published recently about himself and his life in some Costa Rican dailies have been sensationalized, exaggerated and plain wrong.

Worse, he says, these stories were used as justification for the misled police raid that cut short the filming of the final party for a reality show he is producing about a poker tournament he held and his high-stakes lifestyle.

At approximately 10 a.m., he is sitting at his office desk in baggy cargo shorts, a designer T-shirt, sunglasses, flip-flops and a trucker baseball cap adorned with a colorful beaver. In contrast to the composed businessman who appeared in a suit and tie at a press conference about the police raid the weekend before, Ayre now seems like a big, friendly kid.

Though clearly still miffed about the incident with the police, the Canadian is relaxed and upbeat as he speaks with The Tico Times about his business and pleasures, and gives a tour of his luxury home in the gated community of Valle del Sol.

From the outside, the home – worth $3.5 million according to Forbes Magazine – doesn’t look like much. Concrete and compact, the façade conceals a bachelor’s compound designed by Ayre himself. Two guest bungalows – each one unique and luxurious – the gym, quarters for a groundskeeper and domestic help, his home and his office form a semi-circle around the beach-entry pool that is the center of the estate.

No fence divides his property from the adjacent golf course, but after the raid – police came through the fairway into his backyard – and all the recent press attention, Ayre sighs when he says he is going to build one.

Like Ayre, his home adapts to both work and play easily, and the line between the two is not quite clear.

In the recent filming of “Calvin Ayre Wild Card Poker” – the show interrupted by the Costa Rican police who believed Ayre was hosting illegal gambling at his house – the guest bungalows were darkened and used for filming interviews. The women’s changing room for his gym became make-up rooms and a guest office became the production office.

“What I’m trying to do is create something of a television production industry here in Costa Rica,”Ayre says, explaining from a shaded table on his patio that the reality show was his first attempt. Despite the snag, Ayre says, he would like to continue with his plans.

“I’ve got two more shows coming down the pipe right now. One of them won’t be shot here. But one of them, which is an ultimate fighting show, I can shoot it here in Costa Rica, or somewhere else in the world, like the Philippines,” Ayre says. “The government of Costa Rica has to decide whether they are interested in making Costa Rica hospitable to clean industry like TV production.”

Seemingly ruffled by the talk of the raid, Ayre moves to the foosball table. He squares off with the Costa Rican champ and takes a quick licking. Bodog sent Céspedes, 38, to the World Foosball Championships in Dallas, Texas, last year – where he won second place – and plans to send him to Las Vegas and Germany this year.

Ayre also runs the Calvin Ayre Foundation that funds a school, a family and the education of selected students in Costa Rica.

“It’s all a part of trying to do stuff for Costa Rica,” he says.

 

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