Smart, generous and a real character: Richard Pain, as remembered by his colleague Richard Wells

Richard Pain, Richard Wells, I.D.I.O.T. Award

Thank you, Richard, for joining us. We’re going to talk today about the IDIOT Award-winning Richard Pain – since Richard himself is no longer with us… But, for context, who are you and what do you do?
My name’s Richard Wells, I’m managing director of University Games UK. I worked with Richard Pain for 15, 16, 17 years, something like that. I started as sales director with the company he founded – Paul Lamond Games. Then, when Richard passed away in 2016, I was catapulted from a shortlist of one into being Managing Director of Paul Lamond Games… And tasked with the unenviable job of selling it.

Which you then did to Bob Moog at University Games?
Right. And University Games/Paul Lamond Games is what we currently are. We also bought Lagoon in 2020, and the Learning Journey last year. So we’ve got those four branches of the business now.

I didn’t realise you were the lone candidate for the job of running Paul Lamond Games…
Well, I gave myself quite a tough interview but yes, I passed, surprisingly. Gave myself an enormous pay rise. And from there on in, really, I’ve never looked back! But no, I wasn’t trampled in the rush for the job at the time; nobody really fancied picking up that particular mess and running with it. Anyway, with an excellent team here we just about managed to keep it on the rails.

Perfect. I do want to discuss what made Richard Pain great at what he did… First, though, can you clear this up? If Richard was the founder of Paul Lamond Games, who’s Paul Lamond?
Ah! I can clear that up, yes! So when the company was founded – more or less in 1985 – there were two founders. One was Richard Pain; the other was Robert Knight. And I think they felt that calling the company after themselves wouldn’t work: either Knight Games or Pain Games…

Ha! No!
So they were scouring around for another name. And I believe a mutual acquaintance of theirs had tried to change his name, by deed poll, to Paul Lamond. I don’t know why! Anyway, it cost quite a lot of money to do this back then; you had to fill in a load of forms and if you messed it up, that was you done.

Richard Pain, Richard Wells, I.D.I.O.T. Award

Oh? You couldn’t just correct your mistake and get back on track?
No. It’s probably different these days when you do it online or whatever, but back then you didn’t get your money back. You just had to start again and have another go. Anyway, this is apparently what happened… Having spent however many thousands it was to change his name, this fella couldn’t do it because he’d done one of the forms wrong. So Richard Pain and Robert Knight named the company Paul Lamond as a sort of monument to their friend’s stupidity…

Ha! Oh, that’s never the reason? Seriously?!
That was the reason. But the fact that there was no person called Paul Lamond became very useful… If ever you’ve got a call from an angry customer saying, you know, “What the hell are you doing with this terrible game? I demand to speak to Mr. Lamond immediately!”, we would always say, “I’m terribly sorry, he’s in the Seychelles at the moment…”

Ha! You had this figment of your imagination – ha! – traveling the world, ducking his responsibilities?
Absolutely. If anyone was asking to speak with Paul Lamond you tended to know it was either a sales call or a complaint. Ha! So it was kind of a handy filter back in the day.

That’s genius. I’m glad I asked! So… How did you come to know Richard?
Back in the 1990s, I was working for a company called Scandecor. We were selling posters, calendars, postcards, art prints, that kind thing. One thing Scandecor was famous for, when posters were a thing, was that they invented the idea of doing rolled up posters underneath a display rack with the leafs. Our main competitor, Athena, then took that idea into their retail shops. Athena was a larger company in the sense that they had the shops, but in terms of of publishing, Scandecor was the slightly larger of the two.

And you were a salesman for Scandecor?
Yes. At the time, we were dealing with Woolworths, WH Smith, John Menzies. We were quite a big operation, but – as you might recall – the market basically declined to virtually nothing over just a few years. In 1999, I was looking to see what else was out there when a recruiting agent said a particular person was interested in seeing me. That turned out to be Richard Pain. He sent me the catalogues and an extraordinary collection of weird and wonderful games – and pet gifts, if you don’t mind!

Richard Pain, Richard Wells, I.D.I.O.T. Award

Pet gifts? So it wasn’t just games?
No, it was all kinds of weird stuff. And I thought: this is definitely somebody that I should speak to. So I first met with him in his office in Newington Green, Islington, for what we might laughably call an interview. Eventually, he said he wanted me to meet a couple of other people in the business. There were only about three or four of them at the time. We all went and met in a Turkish restaurant in Upper Street. We continued to chat and, frankly, we got very drunk very fast – and he offered me the job in fairly quick order.

Well, that’s the way to do it! A job interview with a lot of wine glasses…
Yes! Although it was a foolish man that tried to keep up with Richard on white wine. I didn’t even particularly drink white wine… But I was trying to be polite, and he was drinking this stuff by the gallon. He just kept topping the glasses up. We were chatting away; he was clearly getting very excited about the prospect of us working together. He was very engaged, passing bits of paper over, making notes and discussing the salary. He was quite animated and giving a good impression of wanting to work with me.

This is still in the Turkish restaurant?
Yes. And actually, the waitress there kept popping over in the way that they do, saying, you know, “Is everything all right, sir? Can I get you anything else, sir? Would you like another drink? Sir? Can I empty your ashtray, sir?” Meaning well but interrupting, interrupting, interrupting. And eventually Richard got fed up with this – because he wasn’t a man blessed with a lot of patience! And he said, “Look, will you leave us alone? Just bring me one of everything on the bloody menu and go away!”

Wait… One of everything on the menu? In a Turkish restaurant?
Ha! Yes! The menu went on for miles. It was full of all these little plates. At this point it was just the two of us on a table for four. These plates just kept arriving and arriving… The waitress obviously thought, well, sod you, you know? If you’re going to be like that you bloody well will get one of everything. There must’ve been 25 dishes on the table as we were chatting at one point. Absolutely ridiculous. He was perfectly happy with it, though. He’s smoking, drinking, grabbing a bite to eat, chatting, smoking again. So it was a somewhat chaotic interview, but we got there in the end, I guess.

Richard Pain, Richard Wells, I.D.I.O.T. Award

Ha! So, by reputation, he was very good at what he did – but not a patient man! Drank a lot, smoked a lot…
Oh, smoked like a chimney; probably smoked 120 a day. But you know, anybody who’d ever met Richard would agree that the guy was a real character. Always wore socks indoors – hated wearing shoes. He’d sort of park them under one of the tables at a trade show and just walk about in his socks. Quite eccentric in a way. He used to get away with it because he was just such a character…

He was also a big chap; physically big – six foot three, I would guess, maybe six foot four… A great big bear of a man with a very posh, booming voice. Often, his shirt would be hanging out – he was quite a distinctive looking character. All the more so in the early days because he was always accompanied by these two big dogs; huge red setters I think… Max and Molly! They went everywhere with him; never had a lead or anything. Anybody who knew Richard would remember these things about him. And people just used to love him!

You mentioned that, in the early days, you did pet gifts and weird and wonderful toys and games. What kind of toys and games was he doing at that point?
Before I joined the company, there were two things that they were really known for. One of them was licensed board games. Now, it would be foolish to suggest that Richard invented that category – but he certainly grew that category out. He had Kylie and Jason: The Game, Twin Peaks: The Game… Batman: The Game… Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles…

The Game?!
You’ve got it! So that area was what Paul Lamond Games was very well known for in the mid-to-late 80s, early 90s. And the other thing it was known for was adult games. So drinking games, naughty games… I mean, we did have children’s and family games – but we were probably best known for the other two areas. That was a bit before my time, obviously…

Yes. Things had changed by the time you got there?
Yes, because there are three potential problems with licensed games. The first is that there are no hot licenses. The second is that there IS a really hot license – and you don’t get it… And the third is that there’s a really hot license, you DO get it… And, in the whole licensing way of life, so does somebody else!

Richard Pain, Richard Wells, I.D.I.O.T. Award

Most years, one of those three things is bound to happen. The worst of those three is having a hot license which somebody else then gets as well. And that happened with Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, which – for those of us of an age – was absolutely huge at the time. But it got licensed out, or sub-licensed out, to another company. I can’t remember who, but they basically did a number – and that did for the original incarnation of Paul Lamond Games. They went bust. It was bought by another company called Prism Leisure.

Oh! This I did not know. So when you were on board, it was almost with a phoenix from the ashes?
Right. They retained Richard as a consultant but, within a couple of years, it wasn’t really working out for Prism. Meanwhile, Richard had been working out what he’d been doing wrong. How did he go bust? What could he do to build this company up again? And stop it going bust again? What were the mistakes he made? He then bought the company back from Prism for the princely sum of two pounds.

So he was working out his comeback?
Exactly right, because he was very intelligent like that; very good at analysing weaknesses – his own and other people’s – and working out where he should be. I’ll give you an example… He once asked me to define a successful game. And Robert said, “A game that sells 20,000 or more in a year.” Or 50,000 or whatever it was… And Richard thought about it and said, well – maybe. But let’s try another definition.

Let’s say a game is successful if it still sells 5,000 to 10,000 a year in year three. If that was the definition, how many successful games have we ever had in the company? And the answer was “None!”

Because everything was a – flash-in-the-pan licensing deal?
Exactly. Everything they were doing was high profile and licensed. So it went through the roof and then crashed and burned. And this was working well right up until it didn’t. So when Richard came back to it, his idea was that the company should reset itself. He bought the company back from Prism Leisure, then decided that he’d create ranges that had real longevity – and then maybe add a bit of ‘licensed’ on top as the sort of icing on the cake rather than just going for these really well-known things.

Richard Pain, Richard Wells, I.D.I.O.T. Award

So he built up a new range, and then – when he added a bit of licensed on the top – it became very successful. And at that point, the company made a lot of money, and he had a decision: either go and live on an island somewhere or recruit somebody like me to try and grow the business up to the next level. And that’s the way he decided to go. So that’s that!

I had no idea there was such a rise and fall and rise again… In terms of the licenses the later incarnation had, some of those were really quite steadfast: David Walliams, The Tiger that Came to Tea, Roald Dahl…
Well, yes – we figured that a lot of the customers, in those days at least, would be female relations buying for kids. Most kids would not be pester-powering their parents for a board game or a jigsaw puzzle! Computer games, possibly, but kids were unlikely to be tugging at a parent’s sleeve and begging for a jigsaw puzzle. So in order to be successful, we needed to appeal to mums, aunties, grannies – whatever. To do that, we needed licenses that were recognisable to those demographics…

Smart. The exact opposite of the earlier flash-in-the pan stuff. And in terms of Richard winning the I.D.I.O.T. Award, were you around when he won it?
Yes and no! I wasn’t actually at the Inventors Dinner when the award was presented to him because that’s on during London Toy Fair. In those days, when I was a sales director, I was always very flat out at Toy Fair – as indeed my sales director is these days while I get to swan around looking important! Leading up to the award, though, I’d had a conversation with the Inventors Dinner committee to give them some information so that they could do the award.

Because – for those not in the know – the award recipient is a well-kept secret every year…
Oh, yes – it was all very hush hush and top secret so that he wouldn’t know. And had he known, he probably wouldn’t have turned up. He was quite publicity shy in that way. He wasn’t one for the spotlight, even less so than me. He would just quietly try and go about running the business… But the day after he won, as I walked on the stand, he was booming: “You bastard!” Ha! “You stitched me right up, you bastard!” And I said, “Yeah, I did a bit…” But actually, he was thrilled to win it – really thrilled… Because he loved the Inventors Dinner and I.D.I.O.T. Award.

Richard Pain, Richard Wells, I.D.I.O.T. Award

He supported it regularly, did he?
Absolutely. He went every year, loved seeing his good friends there… They’d get a table, and it would be this great raucous night with friends who all knew and respected each other. And to win an award in that environment… Well, I know it meant a lot to him – despite the fact that he was all, “How dare you…” you know, do this and that not let him know! Because it was such a big surprise; he never expected to win it. So yes – he was really pleased to have won it, I think, and very proud. I know it meant a lot.

Fantastic. You mentioned there that Richard was intelligent… What was his background?
Yes, I think that’s one of the main things about him: he was brilliantly clever, and he knew a lot of stuff. He was also great company. In terms of his background, he was a chartered accountant at a very young age. He would’ve been one of the youngest-ever partners in whichever huge accountancy firm he was with. But he also had a creative side – and being able to marry those two things together is, in my experience, a very rare gift…

Most people could do one of those things or the other – well, no… I suppose most people can’t do either! Ha! But some people can do one or the other; they don’t tend to be really creative AND brilliant with numbers. He was able to do all of that. I think, though – in common with a lot of entrepreneurial sorts – that he wasn’t very good at being an employee. So in the end, he wanted to do his own thing.

From what we’ve discussed before, it also sounds like he had a pretty good sense of humour…
Absolutely! One of my favourite stories about him happened before I joined the company… They had a customer complaint. This chap had written an absolutely furious letter to say they’d bought a Scooby-Doo jigsaw puzzle or whatever it was… But there was a piece missing. So you can imagine: “Dear Mr. Lamond… What the hell do you think you’re doing? Absolute disgrace! How dare you? What are you going to do about it?” And on and on it goes. So Richard sends off one random Scooby-Doo jigsaw piece in an envelope with a little note saying, “Was it this piece?”

Ha! That’s funny!

Ha! Needless to say, it did not go down all that well!

Ha! That – oh, my days! Ha! That is a great gag!
Obviously, these were the days before social media. We’re in slightly different times now; I don’t see that you could do that sort of thing now… The internet would blow up; you could end up killing the business. But in those days – well, that was a very Richard thing to do.

That’s such a good gag. Well, look, this has been a pleasure Richard – I know you’ve been very reluctant to put yourself in the spotlight for a Mojo interview so I’m absolutely thrilled you’re prepared to do it for Richard Pain because not many people could do it. I’m really grateful.
Well, yes… You’re welcome. It’s not really my forte, to be honest. I have other people who like to go front and centre, but in the case of Richard… I guess there aren’t really many people available that would be able to help out. And he deserves the recognition, so I’m delighted to help out.

Well, I appreciate it, truly – and it’s really been a pleasure. Final question, then: what is it that you, Richard Wells, miss most about him, Richard Pain?
Well, I was also going to say earlier that one of his traits was that he was extraordinarily generous. He loved to go out and eat… I must’ve been out for hundreds and hundreds of meals with him over the years. And – honestly – if I went out for 400, 500 meals with him, I reckon someone else paid maybe four times. He loved to spend money entertaining you – he was really good at that sort of thing. So: generosity and intellect, I think are two abiding traits. He was a real character, but those two things would probably be the things that I miss most about him, I think.

Oh. He sounds terrific, Richard; I’m sorry I never got a chance to meet him. And thank you again for your time.

Richard Pain, Richard Wells, I.D.I.O.T. Award

Simon Skelton’s Presentation Notes
for Richard Pain’s I.D.I.O.T. Award 2008

RP wrote a book (or books) of food limericks under the name of SQUIRTY O’GOURD and MCNAUGHTY BOOKS.

Contributed to the MONSTER RAVING LOONY PARTY manifesto. In order to save crime – wake a sleeping policeman.

Honourable. Paid his bills on time.


Grandfather: German ancestry. Discovered a new pig in Africa, the giant forest hog (Hylochoerus meinertzhageni). Apparently, there are details and a stuffed specimen in the Natural History Museum, London.


RP liked the outdoors. Scotland. And in later years, Norfolk.

In my opinion a shy, lovable genius.

Once described by his doctor as a “bon viveur”. Loved curry and white wine.

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