April 2, 2017
You’ve read the headlines; you’ve seen the photos of extravagant, lavish parties. Everything you thought you knew is wrong – ORM went to meet the real Travers Beynon and his gorgeous family.
Welcome to the Candy Mansion
When in Rome you would take in ‘The Trevi Fountain’, here you’ll find a decadent ‘Fountain of Travi’ greeting you beyond the crested gates.
Walk the driveway, past the statues, through the front door and into the grand lobby. You’ll see a sweeping staircase, imposing Renaissance art adorning the walls and two plump purple and gold velvet wing chairs perched, awaiting guests. Continue through into the themed room, which comes alive as a VIP room at parties; it’s been The Red Room, a Jungle Room…
But today there is no party. It’s 9am on an average Thursday. Today, it’s time to finally meet Travers Beynon, the real man behind the multimillion-dollar Free Choice tobacco empire. Look beyond the lavish parties and salacious headlines, who is this man really – and what makes him tick?
In the kitchen, his beautiful wife of six years Taesha, pours a juice while two employees tap away on laptops.
Travers, 44, black hair slicked back, wears a sleek Brioni black suit and Louis Vuitton shoes. His presence looms large as he confidently shakes hands and smiles wide. Magnetic. Powerful.
“I bought this house in 2010 and have spent years converting,” he says. “Would you like a tour?”
How could anyone say no?
The first thing he added to the house was a Versace Medusa mosaic to the kitchen floor. We whisk past the Teppanyaki kitchen, through to the glamorous pool encrusted with 24-carat white and yellow gold, ‘Candy Shop Mansion’ worded into tiles, and, of course, the infamous grotto. Words have been carefully painted above the back door, ‘Any place that we love becomes our world’. A 27-ton solid marble statue overlooks the pool.
Everywhere you look, the detail is incredible.
“All of this,” he says, gesturing wide with his arm, “this is my release. It’s a representation of how I see the world. I love beauty; art, clothes, cars, women. Everything beautiful. There are two sides to me. I’m an entrepreneur (Business man) and an entertainer (party man). Two sides to a single coin.”
He’s captivating and there’s unexpected warmth about him.
He shows us where he hosts children’s parties. “We had a Mad Hatter Party here for the kids, I hired an actor as Mad Hatter. I’m very family orientated – this home is very family orientated. I’ve had the same cleaner for 24 years. He does my offices, he’s at every party with his wife and four kids, and usually wins best dressed!”
Travers lives here with his wife, girlfriend Nisha and his four children; Valentino, 18, Lucciana, 15, Velicia 6 and Serafina 5. They’re all here today but he leads us to the chilly air-conditioned movie theatre to tell his story away from little ears. Posters of his eight favourite movies hang on the back wall: Wolf of Wallstreet, Fifty Shades of Grey, The Godfather, Ironman, Scarface, The Dark Knight Rises, Rocky IV, The Great Gatsby.
Today, the real life entertainment is listening to Candy Man’s story…
“I came from humble beginnings. My parents both worked hard, they had an amazing work ethic, my mother was a full-time mum and she worked hard, often until 3am. She was a strong woman, she was the strongest example in my life, I have huge admiration for her. My grandmother was another strong woman; she was nicknamed ‘The General’!
“I came from very humble beginnings, I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I was taught to appreciate all that you have and work hard for what you want. It was important to me to raise my own children the same way, they don’t expect things to be handed to them. My son works in the business while attending University full time, he’s learning the business from the ground up.
“I was a hyperactive child, I slept one hour a night until I was 5, hinting maybe it had something to do with not wanting to miss out. Football became my life. I loved it. From when I turned nine years old, my parents would strap an AFL football in my hands when I slept every night. I dreamt of becoming a footballer. It happened, I was drafted to north Melbourne and became the youngest ever U19’s North Melbourne captain. I skipped school a lot. My parents didn’t push the academic side because at the age of 16 I felt my life was going to be football. I’d drop my friends off at nightclubs but I didn’t go in, I didn’t drink. I was totally focused. I’ve always had intense focus. There were some girls when I was a teenager, but I was focused on football.
Bryn, Travers’ General Manager jumps in, it was only the other day I re-read what one of his coaches wrote about Travers when he was only ten years old; he could have been talking about him, Travers follows on now my attitude to life. ‘Focused’ and ‘goal orientated’ kept cropping up. You see, when you push past your comfort zone, and break into ground you didn’t think was possible, that becomes addictive. If someone says to me, ‘No, it’s can’t be done”, I see it as a challenge. I will find a way to make it happen.
“I had no plan B when I broke my back playing football. Some modelling agencies had been trying to woo me, a model scout from the USA discovered me in Sydney and shortly after I signed with Elite Model Management in Miami Beach, Florida, so when I couldn’t play anymore, I packed my bags and left home and that’s what I turned to.
“My first modelling job was for Levi jeans shot in Mexico City. It was surreal. My friends back home in Melbourne were laughing their heads off – until they saw I was making a success of it. I modelled the Versace snakeskin line in the Super Studios in Milan. That was cool; music blaring, so animated, very flamboyant. Very me. I earned good money – between $2,000 and $35,000 a day. Meeting Gianni Versace was amazing, he oozes style his knowledge about fashion and passion for beauty was incredible. I was based in Milan and New York; I did shows in Paris and London. I became a lover of art.
“Every cheque I got, I took the minimum of what I needed for rent and to live on and sent the rest home to my parents to help with some capital expenses and buying stock of their new business. They set up Free Choice in 1991. There’s a perception out there that they created a business and gave it to me – not true.
“When I was living in New York I had a one-bedroom apartment in Gramercy Park. They came to visit. I walked along the street thinking, ‘Hmm, where am I going to sleep while they’re here?’ I saw a mattress on the side of the road. That’s what I slept on for a week and I tell you, it didn’t smell the best!
“I got the job as premier host a Paris Fashion show. My girlfriend, who was living in Miami, just turned up. I didn’t know she was coming. It was Thursday; I was leaving Monday to shoot in Tunisia, North Africa. She wanted to come with me. She knew I was shooting with other girls. She was hot tempered and jealous. She was also 6 foot, former Miss World Venezuela. But she needed a visa to be able to come.
“We went to the consulate on Friday but arrived at 12:05. It closed at 12pm. I looked up and saw a window was open on the second floor so I climbed up, in through the window and went downstairs to let her in. Three hours later we had a visa. Never tell me you can’t make something happen.”
His flow is interrupted when a woman walks in with his lunch. In fact, he has two lunches; it’s a very strict diet. Everything in his life runs like clockwork with immense, meticulous detail.
As he chews on his lunch, I ask about the nickname Candy Man. “The media came up with that. In my modelling days I was known as ‘The Hunter’. It wasn’t necessarily about girls. My friends said I would get this look in my eyes like, ‘I’ve got to have that’, and I’d get it. I was like a lion; nothing was going to stand in my way.”
So, the story continues that The Hunter married Miss World Venezuala when he was 25. Their wedding was in Spanish, their marriage lasted ten years and bore his two eldest children.
He wanted to start a family in Australia so joined the family business in December 1997. He put a lot of his money into property mainly into beachfront property. Property boomed in 2002-2005 and he earned a lot of money, while learning as much as he could about Free Choice. In 2006, he did a deal with his parents and acquired 51 per cent of the company, putting him in control. There has been repeated speculation that he was given the company by his parents, which he silences with the startling revelation that his father was actually his stepfather. He quickly learned that business with pure hard work. At that time there were 12 employees and just under 100 stores. Now there are over 200 staff, 300 stores and1300 vending machine in pubs and clubs.
“When I bought the majority share of Free Choice from my parents, I promised my father I’d hit a financial target and make Free Choice a household name. At a conference last year, in front of 300 people, my father stood on stage and said, ‘I too can eat my words, he’s done it’. Do you have any idea how happy it makes me knowing I’ve made my father proud?”
That smile of self-contentment speaks volumes about a man who has worked incredibly hard to prove himself.
He knows he has his critics – and he also knows it’s a waste of energy to try to silence them. Free Choice is his business; it’s also his life motto, he is a big believer of “Freedom of Choice”.
Against all the odds, with no education, he made it his priority when he’d made his millions to up-skill himself.
“When I came back from modelling in the U.S and Europe at 26, I’d never read a book,” he says. “I made a point of educating myself. I read like mad. The first book I read was, ‘She Comes First’. I’ve read as many books about women and relationships as I have about business. I did a series of Tafe courses on the weekend and in the evenings from accounting, networking for computers and psychology 1 and 2. He laughs, “I’ve been compared to Hugh Heffner – hardly! He wrote his first piece aged eight. I read my first book at 25, massive catch up there!”
Travers has sole custody of his two children from his first marriage. “People say I’m unfit? Let me say this, a judge doesn’t give custody to a father who is not fit. I’m not the bad guy people like to paint me as. She is not even allowed to contact the children. They literally ran away from her. They were hiding and I drove to pick them up. The system is jinxed against men; I fought hard for two years. Now, my children love me to death. Say what you want about me, but when your teenage daughter thinks you’re a cool dad and people comment that your kids are the best mannered kids they’ve ever met – that makes me so proud.” Manners is the number 1 rule for children.
Travers met his second wife, Taesha when she was 18 and a hostesses at a Candy Shop party.
“Why is she with me? It’s simple: fun is addictive. You can have cars and money and all those things, but that excitement only lasts for so long. Before we got married her family asked me for $2.4 milllion. I said no, going from hero to zero real quick and I didn’t tell her because I didn’t want her to be embarrassed. Six years later, we’ve been renovating the house, we’re happy. I’m a family man. Nisha and Taesha are really close, they feed off each other. We’re all happy here.”
A day in the life of The Candyman
4am-5am: up, cardio for 1 hour.
Work: Free Choice headoffice, Coomera.
Mid-afternoon: Gym. “I’ve found as I’m getting older my body gets a bit tired, so I short-circuit it and make it come alive again by going to the gym at this time.”
Home: works in office upstairs, often until midnight. Older kids come in for chats.
Then? “I go to bed and that’s another hurdle. When you’ve got one girl, that’s one thing. When there’s multiple, there’s so much going on in my mind. In bed, there’s four girls as an average. I often don’t get much sleep. What I’m like in business, life or sport, I’m like that in bed. They love my imagination and my creativity. You need that when you’ve got multiple girls. I think I come up with a new position every week. Bedroom time isn’t for me; it’s to stimulate the girls. To be good in bed it’s not about you.”
The bedroom: Large L-shaped custom-made bed (3 king size beds joined) with smoke machines underneath. Mirrored ceilings. A gold pole, scattered Versace cushions on the floor. Makeup booth along one wall with Hollywood spotlights and four mirrors for the girls.
Secret to making women happy? “Never bore them.”
“I’ve been throwing parties for twenty plus years. It wouldn’t matter what I sold, what business I was in, I’d be throwing parties. I love to entertain. Nothing makes me happier than when people walk out saying, “That’s the best party I’ve ever been to” or “What the f**k will he do next?”
They take about six months to plan. Free Choice is the engine behind it all. The whole team works so hard, there’s so much pressure, I love the bond that grows each time we throw another successful party.
People love coming to watch the show. It’s free and we have international DJ’s, laser shows, fireworks, exotic animals, entertainers and food stalls all around the edge of the house; hot dogs, hamburgers, choro’s everything!
We’ve honed it over the years. Safety is important, we have paramedics on-site, there’s a recovery room and we do a full report for the police.”
Valentino, 18 lives at the Candyman Mansion with his girlfriend, Shona, 17.
“Dad and I speak a lot about how everything works and I understand it’s important to get the trust right in our relationship first.
Yes we are living the dream – but it took a lot to get here. When dad took over Free Choice, he had a lot on his plate. It was hard when I was younger because my Dad worked so hard. I’d wake up and see my dad first thing in the morning and then Taesha would drive me to school. He’d come home from work at around 6pm, say hello and go up to his office. I wouldn’t see him for the rest of the night.
We’ve always had a good relationship, it’s very honest. I was 13 when we moved into this house, but it didn’t look like this! We spent hours outside gardening, cutting down trees, all of us helped.
On my 18th birthday I was happier my dad came out with me than any of my mates! We were out until 5am. We were the last ones dancing in the club. Sometimes he’s a good dancer. I’ve learnt some dance moves from him, sometimes when he’s smashed he shouts out, “Woooah”. I do that too. I’m happy living here. I’ve still got a lot to learn from my dad about business – and life in general.
When I was six years old, I took $50 from the till. Dad drove me to the police station. I was led into a little room, I still remember how tiny the glass window was. I saw my dad walk away and I was crying and crying. A cop came and talked to me. I was balling my eyes out. He took me to the cells and scared me. I learnt my lesson!”
“I’m very close to my dad. He was always tough on manners and respect.
If I need to speak to him, I send a message and he always makes time for me. I’m also very close to Taesha. She’s been around for six years.
When I’m older I want a husband, someone just like dad. I want two children, I’ve already chosen their names. I want to have a child when I’m 26 – I have my whole life planned out!
I want to go to America when I’m 18, I’m really passionate about making it as a model. I want to make my father proud and follow in his footsteps. We have a very close bond. I’ll work at Free Choice when I finish school and save as much as I can. My dad has an amazing work ethic, he’s taught me that. Dad’s said he’ll help me set myself up in New York. I’ll work hard modelling, save and invest in property like my dad did.”
Taesha Beynon, 26 (wife)
“I met Travers in 2009, I was hostess at the first official Candy Shop party. I smiled at him but didn’t speak to him. I used to do a lot of cardio so I’d see him along the beach path, he’d be cycling from his place. I kept seeing him. Then I saw him in a nightclub, he commented on my bum so I started talking to him and we exchanged numbers.
On our first date we went to McDonalds, I believe he did this because he always liked to stay unpredictable and not do the “norm”, we bought food and took it and sat on the Broadwater. Next time he took me to dinner. After a couple of months, it got serious very fast and I started moving my stuff in.
I had an instant connection with the kids. We lived as a family of four on Sovereign Island before we moved in here.
We got married at the end of 2011. It was meant to be a massive do but my mum became really controlling. She wanted me to have this dress, this reception, this church. It was all too much so we called it off.
I ended up having a massive fight with my parents. They asked Travers for $2.8 million. I haven’t spoken to them in six years. I’m fine about it. They’ve done more than enough for me to cut ties, especially appearing on A Current Affair and defaming my husband with lies. I will never forget what they said.
Three days before our actual wedding, Trav said, ‘Right, we’re getting married”. It was beautiful, I had no time to stress. It was intimate with just 40 friends at St Johns Cathedral in Brisbane. Then we came back here for the reception. Then I had my first daughter, Velicia in Feb 2011, Velicia.
There have always been other girls. Sometimes they only live here for a few weeks and then move on. Look at social media, you’ll see so many girls throwing themselves at him. I don’t mind – I’m married to him! he has many girlfriends but only one wife. We’d like more children. I love being a mum.
His first official girlfriend, Kirsty, had to go after a few months. She kept arguing and it wasn’t what we wanted.
It’s very different with Nisha, we’re very close. We have our fights but I love being around her. Since I met her at the first photoshoot she came to, I’d talked about her with Trav. Some nights if Trav’s working, Nisha and I go to bed and get some sleep before he arrives, we get a head start!” because we know he’s worked up when he gets to bed.
Nisha Downes, 21 (main girlfriend)
“I first heard about the Candy Shop Mansion through a friend. I was intrigued. She messaged and said they were doing a photoshoot here and I should go. I’d never done any modelling before so I was quite scared. Taesha was covered in sushi; there was an attraction between us straight away. I loved that day. In the shoot, there’s one shot where I was sat behind Trav and he said I squeezed his shoulders and pushed my body against his. Probably!
I went home that night but we kept in touch. Months later, I came up for the weekend. The three of us went up to Byron Bay for the weekend. On the last night, 23 October 2015 (yes, I remember the date), I jokingly said, “When am I moving in then?”
He said, “Next weekend.” We organised flights and that was it, I moved in. Some nights it’s just the three of us, it really varies. Some nights there are four or five girls on each bed and people even on the floor – after parties, and some random nights. Trav gets an idea in his head, sometimes, he’s seen a photo during the day and suddenly there’s more girls flying in from other states, even from overseas sometimes. We’re out by the pool until the sun comes up, those are the best nights!”