Bodog's Ayre Bids Biz Au Revoir

21 April 2008

Calvin Ayre, founder and chief executive of Bodog Entertainment, is stepping down from his post as the crown prince of online gambling and entertainment.

"You've likely heard the rumblings and rumors . . . and for once . . . it's true . . . I'm packing it in!" Mr. Ayre wrote on his blog Monday.

"Well who am I kidding, if you're reading this now you know that for the past few years I've been pretty focused on jetting around the world to exotic places and filming crazy [expletive] for this blog. I was really more of a brand ambassador for Bodog the past while anyway -- but it was fun while it lasted."

For the last year, Bodog's North American operations have been run by the Morris Mohawk Gaming Group in Kahnawake, and since 2006 Mr. Ayre has been building a European executive team to oversee the company's European and African operations.

After earning an MBA from City University in Seattle, Mr. Ayre was embroiled in an insider trading scandal while he served as president of Bicer Medical Systems, a Vancouver-based heart valve manufacturer.

Mr. Ayre was never charged, but he settled in 1996 for a $10,000 fine and a 20-year prohibition from running a company listed on the Vancouver Exchange, according to a Forbes magazine feature published in 2006.

In 1996, Mr. Ayre sold everything he owned for $10,000 and started the Bodog Group of companies in Costa Rica, which began as a software company targeted at launching online gambling sites.

By 2000, Mr. Ayre launched his own site, which consisted of a sports book and casino.

In 2003, to create buzz for the company, Mr. Ayre began living a fictional double life as Cole Turner, an adventure-loving character inspired by Indiana Jones.

However, he gave up the charade when, after Mr. Turner was quoted in Cigar Aficionado, Mr. Ayre grew weary of explaining to reporters that his alter ego was indeed fictional.

Bodog has grown into a major entertainment brand, expanding outside the realm of online gambling. The company established a TV production branch in 2006 and a music branch, to which it has signed Wu-Tang Clan, a top hip-hop act.

Mr. Ayre said that in retirement, he plans to spread his attention equally between his private life in Antigua and Barbuda, and his charity efforts through the Calvin Ayre Foundation, which he founded in 2005.

"To all the staff, vendors and advisors that have been part of the Bodog development I want to extend sincere thanks for not only the hard work and dedication but the lessons and good times I have experienced and can now take away with me," Mr. Ayre wrote on his blog.

"I wish you all continued success and if we bump into each other on a white sand beach or maybe the streets or bars of my home base of Antigua please come say hello."

Mr. Ayre confirmed his retirement plans with Interactive Gaming News but declined to be interviewed.

Emily Swoboda is the senior staff writer at IGamingNews. She lives in St. Louis, Mo.