Sovereign Capital has sold Linnaeus Group to Mars

Lincoln International (“Lincoln”), a leading global mid-market investment bank, is delighted to have represented Sovereign on its sale of Linnaeus Group (“Linnaeus”) to Mars Inc. Linnaeus will become a unit within Mars Petcare’s Veterinary Health Group.

Having launched Lincoln’s U.K. Healthcare team in late 2017, this transaction firmly establishes Lincoln’s position in the U.K. Healthcare M&A market by delivering Sovereign Capital Partners (“Sovereign”) their largest ever sale and gross return.

Linnaeus is a leading U.K. provider of veterinary services and the market leader in the specialist referral-led segment. At the time of sale, Linnaeus operated five highly respected, multidisciplinary referral centres, complemented by a thriving first opinion practice portfolio of 82 sites which are strategically located in key urban areas across the U.K. The business is known for its highly qualified team and employs more Diplomates than any other veterinary group in the U.K.

Sovereign backed the original veterinary platform, Willows Veterinary Centre and Referral Service, one of the leading specialist veterinary centres for small animals in the U.K., in September 2014. Following the initial acquisition, Sovereign supported management Lynne Hill, CEO, and Paul Coxon, FD, in delivering 21 add-on acquisitions.

The transaction builds on Mars’ leading presence in the global pet care market. As the current market leader in veterinary services in the U.S. by way of VCA, Banfield Pet Hospital, Blue Pearl and Pet Partners, the acquisition of Linnaeus provided its first step into the European veterinary services market.

Lincoln acted as the exclusive financial advisor to Sovereign and the shareholders of Linnaeus. Working closely with the management team, Lincoln prepared the Company for sale and then managed the entire transaction process to a successful completion, including leading the negotiation of price and transaction terms.

Neil Cox, Partner at Sovereign, said, “Lincoln did a great job navigating the Linnaeus team through the sale process with Matt and his team providing clear advice and working with us to successfully articulate the key attractions of Linnaeus’ proposition to the market. The sale delivered Sovereign’s highest ever sale price, and best ever gross return, so we’re delighted with the result which was a fantastic outcome both for the shareholders and for the Linnaeus business going forward.”

Jonathan Kay, Director at Sovereign, said, “Matt’s strong buyer relationships and Lincoln’s global network combined to enable us to connect with a wide and highly motivated global buyer population. Lincoln adapted the process as we progressed, which ultimately resulted in Linnaeus finding the perfect home for the business while maximising value for shareholders.”

Lynne Hill, CEO at Linnaeus, commented, “The Lincoln team did a fantastic job supporting the management team and shareholders throughout the transaction, working tirelessly around the clock to deliver a top-quality service and an excellent result. We are all delighted with the outcome.”

Matthew Lee, head of Lincoln’s UK Healthcare Group, said, “This represents a landmark deal for the newly established Lincoln U.K. Healthcare team and is a great example of what sector specialist knowledge and advice can deliver. The differentiated proposition of Linnaeus meant we were able to generate significant interest, from both domestic and international trade acquirers and the private equity community, including groups who previously had not looked at the U.K. market. This transaction is the fifth veterinary deal that U.K. Lincoln team members have worked on in recent years and further cements our position as a leading advisory team in the veterinary space.”

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