• Status: Current
  • Date: 2014
  • Sectors:
    • Healthcare & Pharma Services
    • Lifestyle, Leisure & Travel
  • Buy & Build: 22

www.linnaeusgroup.co.uk

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Linnaeus Group

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. Since then, 21 more businesses have joined the Group. Today Linnaeus is one of the leading providers of veterinary services in the UK.

Investment Background

Peter Renwick and Malcolm McKie, both veterinary surgeons, had grown their practice (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 Malcom to step back from running the business day-to-day and become Non-Executive Directors whilst retaining a shareholding.

Value Creation

  • Succession planning: Brought together a highly experienced management team to take the business forward
  • Buy & Build: 21 acquisitions made to date, expanding the Group's geography and service offering
  • Sites: Grown from 1 to over 80 sites
  • Linnaeus Group is today one of the largest and fastest growing veterinary groups in Europe

The Story So Far

Since the Linnaeus Group was formally established in 2014, the Group has seen tremendous growth, both organically and through acquisitions.

A further 21 veterinary business have 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 has built a network of first-opinion, general practices around each referral hospital to diversify Linnaeus’ offering and to expand its geographic reach. 

NDSR was the first follow-on acquisition. It is the largest private referral practice in the South East and like Willows, is a high-quality specialist provider. Myra Forster-Van Hijfte, joint-founder of NDSR, commented, “This was an opportunity to cement an exciting future for NDSR, enabling us to stay at the forefront of veterinary referrals whilst keeping the provision of the highest levels of patient and client care.”

In January 2016, Avonvale became the first general practice to join Linnaeus. As Mark Taylor, Director of Avonvale put it, “The strategy to build a network of high-quality practices made absolute sense to us…. we already enjoyed close ties with Willows as a local tertiary referral practice.” 

Today Linnaeus is recognised as one of the UK’s leading veterinary groups. The Group has:

  • over 80 sites including 5 state-of-the-art specialist referral centres,
  • grown from a team of 120 to over 1300 including: c.330 vets and c.100 leading specialists
  • an enhanced breadth of specialist services including: orthopaedics, ophthalmology, neurology, soft tissue surgery, internal medicine, oncology, dermatology and cardiology.

Sovereign continues to work with the management team to expand the business further to meet the increasing demand for its services.


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In their own words

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 / Willows