The Linnaeus Group was established following Sovereign's 2014 platform investment in Willows Veterinary Centre and Referral Service, one of the largest and most highly regarded small animal specialist veterinary centres in the UK. During the period of Sovereign's investment, 21 more businesses joined the Group. Today Linnaeus is recognised as one of the leading providers of veterinary services in the country.
Peter Renwick and Malcolm McKee, both veterinary surgeons, had grown Willows from a single site into one of the largest and most respected veterinary referral centres in the UK. Having decided to retire they set out to find a buyer for Willows.
Peter explains: "Sovereign recognised our premium product and were keen to build upon it. We felt they would give Willows the best chance of strengthening its position in a changing marketplace – a business that would have the funding and infrastructure to grow. We introduced Lynne Hill to Sovereign as a potential CEO. She had successfully run multidisciplinary facilities and, crucially to us, she was also a vet. Sovereign were prepared to look at that and Lynne was appointed."
A deal was structured that enabled Peter and Malcolm to step back from running the business day-to-day and become Non-Executive Directors whilst retaining a shareholding.
With Sovereign's investment and support, a significant Buy & Build strategy was undertaken to create a market-leading veterinary group.
A further 21 veterinary businesses joined Linnaeus, attracted by the opportunity to be part of a well-invested organisation with an ethos of care and quality. As well as adding further specialist referral hospitals to the Group, Linnaeus built a network of first-opinion, general practices around each referral hospital to diversify Linnaeus's offering and expand its geographic reach.
At the end of Sovereign's investment the Group was recognised as one of the UK's leading veterinary groups with:
Linnaeus was acquired in June 2018 by Mars Petcare's Veterinary Health Group, a part of Mars Inc, which was a natural fit for the Group.
Sovereign recognised our premium product and were keen to build upon it. We felt Sovereign would give Willows the best chance of strengthening its position in a changing marketplace – a business that would have the funding and infrastructure to grow.
Peter Renwick / Co-founder