Casino Risque



27 April 2007 for The Globe and Mail Report on Business Magazine


Online gambling, extreme fighting, heat from U.S. authorities-the fabulous (and somewhat murky) world of Calvin Ayre, farm boy-turned-tycoon


There is a moment in pretty much every bout of mixed martial arts-or MMA, as it is now popularly known-where the spectator will see roughly the following: a lean, mid-20s male, muscular and tattooed, astride the chest of a similar mid-20s male, pounding his fists downward into his opponent's face. This moment doesn't always signal the end of the fight. MMA is known for slippery manoeuvres that turn the fight improbably upside down: knee bars and chokeholds that are applied in a sudden unfurling of limbs, a slithering of bodies that invert the expectations, like some huge, sweating piece of origami unfolding to reveal an object you could not possibly have predicted.

Posted: Monday, Apr. 16, 2007 9:00pm

The Boutique Individual: Brand New World

My mother took a conservative position on toys: Less was better, in part because you should be outside playing anyway. I might have preferred a different approach. But now that I have a two-year-old boy and toys are again on my radar, I see the wisdom of my mother’s old-world view.
It’s partly a matter of self-preservation. Toy marketing has grown devious. Television tie-ins are standard. There are strategic alliances between toys (Duplo and Bob the Builder, for example), which try to create complex multi-toy-group dependencies. But my larger concern is for my son.
Posted: Monday, Dec. 11, 2006 10:00pm

The Boutique Individual: Personal Branding

Everywhere I look in Sketch – Mourad Mazouz’s ultrafabulous London restaurant – I find whimsical, innovative ideas. Ever-changing video wallpaper in the bistro. Unisex bathrooms with individual pod enclosures. And on the plate too, where a typical chef Pierre Gagnaire menu experiments to the tune of Smoked Fish with Coco Bean Chantilly and Tuna Jelly.
But if you wish to experience Sketch in this way, as a nexus of creative surprise, you might want to stop reading here because, as it is with sausages, sometimes knowing how things are made diminishes the pleasure of consumption. Take the neon light sculpture on the landing of the staircase: If I move my head from side to side, the neon ghosts out the word “Love.” Which would indeed be creative and surprising but somehow isn’t because I happen to know that it and every other detail in this place has been planned in advance to reflect Mazouz’s Personal Brand.
Posted: Friday, Sep. 8, 2006 9:00pm

The Boutique Individual: Corporate Storytelling

When I was six years old, I went with an older cousin to look at sailboats in Fisherman’s Cove in West Vancouver. At the gas station opposite the marina, he parked his 1969 Dodge Charger and offered to buy sodas. What about one of these? He indicated his favourite: Orange Crush. I declined, although I wanted the drink. But I’d been so indoctrinated on the evils of fast food and soft drinks that I didn’t dare indulge.
A few decades later, I understand the whole incident in terms of the microeconomics of branding. That summer day – seagulls gliding in the salty air currents above a thicket of swaying sailboat masts – Orange Crush made me a “brand promise,” an offer of membership in a tribe of guys like my cousin: Dodge Charger enthusiasts with girlfriends, puka shell necklaces and brown corduroy boot-cut Levi’s. This was my incentive to buy.
Posted: Monday, Jun. 5, 2006 9:00pm
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