People and Business: How shotguns oil the wheels of business

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SIR GRAHAM HEARNE has become a bit of a sitting duck for investors. The chairman of Enterprise Oil is under fire from some shareholders over the company's use of the wonderfully-named Six Mile Bottom, one of Britain's largest shooting estates.

Enterprise owns the rights to shoot partridge and pheasant on the land near Newmarket. Apparently Mr Hearne and other directors, including chief executive Pierre Jungels, regularly use the Bottom for free to entertain clients.

An Enterprise spokesman tells me that shooting pheasants is the perfect way to win oil business. "The deals done there have more than repaid the price of the shooting rights," he reassures me.

But surely on the verge of a new millennium, Enterprise's way of doing business is an outdated throwback to an era of old school ties and cosy chats between chums? Er, not really - around half a dozen companies, including Bass, the brewer, Allied Zurich, the insurance giant and Bilton the property minnow recently bought by Slough Estates, still own fishing or shooting grounds.

Forget mobile phones and teleconferences: if you want to win new business just buy a good shotgun and keep those birds coming down.

STAYING WITH animals, news of a cunning ploy from Dick O'Brien. The resourceful boss of PacifiCorp decided to disguise his company's name during takeover talks with Scottish Power under the pseudonym of "Pegasus", the mythical flying horse. The James Bond operation was completed by code- naming the UK utility "Sapphire" and by calling the talks "Operation Jet". Perhaps another flying creature's name would have been more appropriate for PacifiCorp. Mr O'Brien admitted that some of the deals struck before the Scottish Power merger were "turkeys" - those mythical financial animals which destroy shareholder value.

MY WARMEST thanks to Eivind Rabben, managing director of HSP corporate finance. The Norwegian-born banker has sent me a magnificent Teletubbies advent calendar "with a festive chocolate surprise behind every window". According to the calendar, I am going to get "an extra chocolate for Christmas Day".

But my joy at sharing Yuletide with Tinky Winky and pals is somewhat reduced after a quick phone call to HSP. "You have been unlucky," one of the bankers tells me: "You could have got the one with Bart Simpson or My Little Pony." Damn.

PAUL COSTELLOE, the fashion designer, has been signed up by Brian Patterson, chief executive of Waterford Wedgwood. The Irish maestro will lend his creative flair to the china and crystal group's latest range of tableware.

Mr Costelloe admits he is "not a potter and not from Stoke-on-Trent" but he has a firm idea of what he wants to do with WW's china. He tells me his collection will be "simple and understated", just like his frocks. The plates will be "uncomplicated - pottery where you can enjoy your grub". We can look forward to "multiversatile bowls" - suitable for pasta, salad, the lot - embellished by a "subtle pattern". Yum...

MICHAEL ROBARTS, a former director of Flemings, has joined actuaries Bacon & Woodrow's investment consulting division.

Mr Robarts's move is the latest in an eventful career largely spent with blue-blood banks. Before Fleming Investment Management he was with NM Rothschild for 20 years.

During his long spell at Flemings, Mr Robarts was involved in a couple of high-profile cases. In 1984 he was seconded to the Bank of England during the Johnson Matthey rescue. And then in 1992 he was an expert witness in the Mirror Group's civil litigation suit against the Maxwell brothers.

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