Dragons' Den star and former Millwall FC chairman Theo Paphitis on his newfound love of game shooting.
Cypriot-born businessman Theo Paphitis, one of the stars of BBC Two’s hugely successful Dragons’ Den, has been involved with numerous high street brands including La Senza, Contessa Lingerie, Partners the Stationers and Stationery Box during his career. The current owner of Boux Avenue, Ryman, Robert Dyas and Red Letter Days talks shooting with Robert Cuthbert.
Is one of our former Shooting Stars, Sir Christopher Evans, one of your regular shooting buddies?
“Yes, yes he is. He’s a great shot. Never, ever let Evans stand behind you. He usually stands far too close and he will steal every single bird that flies over your head… just can’t help himself.”
How would you rate against him?
“I’m certainly a novice but I normally get him on the verbal front.”
You’re both part of a wandering syndicate; who’s the lynch-pin?
“There are a few of us; obviously Taffy… Chris Evans, and Paul Snook, our bowler-hat wearing shooter. This started after a day when I took a partridge that was crossing in front of me – it wasn’t exactly a high bird but it was incredibly fast. I hit it to my right and it carried on going, straight for him. He ducked but sadly, being a larger gentleman, it was a little too late; it put him on the floor. Since then he has been wearing a bowler hat for protection.”
How was last season for you?
“Great. It was my first proper season. I think I did about eight days in all. It can be difficult schedule-wise; especially when you’ve got overnight stays. Sometimes I really have to remind myself, especially when I’m hammering the diary, to give myself that opportunity. I just love the craic.”
Where did you do most of your shooting last year?
“My, lots of places. I’ve a good friend called Karl Oyston up in Lancaster, at Claughton Hall. Karl owns Blackpool Football Club. A day at Paul Snook’s in Yorkshire. And I was invited to Highclere by Wes Paul, a good friend of mine. Tregoyd in Wales too, with Chris Evans. Chris Woodhouse’s place in Hampshire, Longparish, is another lovely place to shoot, a real family shoot. At Sir Edward Dashwood’s place we were shooting the drive above Wycombe Wanderers football ground and this bird was coming over. I had my eye on it and he decides to blow the whistle, but because he was way behind me I didn’t hear it. Well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it! I continued following this bird and was a little distracted by the stadium, I pulled the trigger and the bird landed at his feet, seconds after he’d blown the whistle. Everyone looked the other way. I just turned around and claimed it wasn’t me.”
Is it always purely buddies?
“Absolutely. Honestly, it’s really Boys’ Own stuff. Even when the spouses are there, they become honorary blokes. We try not to let work overlap into it.”
What sort of guns do you use?
How did shooting find you?
“A business acquaintance called Frederic Hufkens, who has a place on the Clarendon Estate near Salisbury, is a great and keen shot. He kept inviting me over. He persuaded me one day to go. I shot terribly but had a great day. I’m a hugely competitive person, so for me to shoot badly but have a great day made me think I really shouldn’t have enjoyed myself, but I did. The next time I was invited back I took my son, who sadly didn’t miss a thing. He is now a keen shot… and better than me.”