Liam Walsh Reporter
Jun 15, 2019 — 12.00am
Inflammatory entrepreneur Travers Beynon hopes his risque “Candyman” persona will help diversify his Freechoice tobacconist brand into new businesses – and he’s even considered legalised marijuana.
Gold Coast-based Beynon tries to attract attention as the Candyman, posting incendiary images on social media, such as him affixing bikini leashes to women, or flaunting gaudy displays of wealth, such as him cruising in a gold and black Lamborghini Aventador.
Despite being branded a misogynist, the 47-year-old has acquired 878,000 followers on Instagram. His posts have also referenced his Freechoice chain, which has 1300 cigarette vending machines and more than 300 company and franchise-owned stores.
But the traditional tobacco sector was shrinking, Mr Beynon said.
One solution was to try to build up Freechoice, which he said was synonymous to Candyman as a brand. He cited the example of Richard Branson’s Virgin brand moving from record shops to airlines and credit cards.
“My best chance is to build Freechoice as big and as exposed, and the reputation of success and everything that comes with it behind Freechoice, so then if the opportunity comes I can move towards another service, industry, commodity … a different country,’’ he told AFR Weekend.
“Your Freechoice tobacconist could be a Freechoice convenience store. This wasn’t an overnight thought. I’d been planning this for many, many years.”
His companies have trademarked everything from his face to the term ‘‘Candyman’’ for potential items including clothes and sex aids.
He said legal cannabis was a commodity he would consider. “
We were actually exploring it probably a year or two ago, looking into the States. The only hurdle there is in the States where you can’t be a retailer of tobacco and a licensed seller of cannabis,” he said.
Mr Beynon’s move into branding was controversial.
Another item of potential interest was Iqos, a device for heating tobacco. ‘‘That could be … part of the volume in Australia,’’ he predicted.
Mr Beynon’s move into branding was controversial. A former international model who studied accounting, psychology and computer networking on returning to Australia, he bought his parents’ Freechoice business in 2006.
However, he only started a viral social media campaign with the Candyman persona in 2015. That included an Instagram post of him holding bikinis like a leashes attached to two women crawling on his driveway.
Mr Beynon said he was not disrespecting women. That post had been about “having fun” and people should not ‘‘take life so serious’’, he said, adding he would never treat women like that. However, he thought the outrage was good for exposure.
Mr Beynon did not think he could retire completely. The actions of Hugh Hefner, the US magazine creator who died at his Playboy mansion aged 91, were probably “past its time” when he was “75 to 80, kissing the 20-year-old girls on the lips”. “I have no intention to be doing that at 80 years of age, though you never know,” he said.
Mr Beynon declined to spell out his net wealth. His Queensland properties cost more than $16 million, but debt levels are unclear.
He said Freechoice’s profitability was improving – a mix of capturing more market share and cost-cutting – but declined to specify dollar figures.
Court documents in a company dispute state the tobacco business generated $10.4 million pre-tax profit in 2015.