Sovereign Capital Partners, a United-Kingdom-based private equity firm specializing in the buy and build strategy, sold Linnaeus Group, a UK veterinary services providers, to Mars Petcare’s Veterinary Health Group. Mars Petcare veterinary businesses include AniCura, VCA, BanfieldPet Hospital, Bluepearl, Pet Partners and Linnaeus. 

 The sale of the veterinary services provider group to the pet food company is Sovereign’s largest ever and will generate Sovereign’s strongest ever gross return, according to the company in a press release. No financial terms are able to be disclosed.

History of Linnaeus Group veterinary services provider

Sovereign backed the veterinary platform, Willows Veterinary Centre and Referral Service, a specialist veterinary center for small animals in the UK, in September 2014. At the time of the investment the business operated from a single hospital in the West Midlands employing  approximately 120 staff.

Lynne Hill, an industry CEO and veterinary surgeon, was appointed to lead the management team as part of management succession. She was joined by Paul Coxon, FD, who Sovereign had previously backed as FD for the highly successful investment, CVS. Willows’ co-founders, Peter Renwick and Malcolm McKee, also stayed on the board as non-executive directors.

Sovereign used a buy and build strategy to develop the Linnaeus Group. Sovereign worked closely with the management team to: help deliver significant organic growth via roll-out funding; identify and complete 21 acquisitions including North Downs Specialist Referrals, Avonvale, VRCC Specialist Referrals and Village Vet; diversify its offering and expand its geographic reach.  

At the time of the sale to Mars, the Linnaeus Group had:

  • grown from 1 to 87 sites in England including five specialist referral centers, (including a GBP 5 million investment into a state-of-the-art greenfield roll-out;
  • grown from a team of 120 to over 1,400 including: approximately 360 vets and approximately 160 specialists;
  • increased EBITDA by more than 700 percent; and
  • an enhanced breadth of specialist services including: orthopaedics, ophthalmology, neurology, soft tissue surgery, internal medicine, oncology, dermatology and cardiology.