The former chief executive of WHSmith has re-emerged in a senior leadership role with an international chain of vets, less than three months after leaving the retailer for a sabbatical.

Former boss of the bookseller and stationer Stephen Clarke has been appointed chief executive of IVC Evidensia, Europe’s largest chain of vets, according to The Times.

Clarke will be reunited with his predecessor at WHSmith, Kate Swann, who is chair of IVC Evidensia. The company has 1,317 clinics in 11 countries employing 19,000 people.

He stepped down from his role as chief executive of WHSmith at the end of October after six years in the role.

He said: “After more than 35 years in retail, I realised that I didn’t want another job in retail. If I wanted that I would have stayed at WHSmith because it was a brilliant team and brilliant business and we had a lot of fun.”

He also said conversations with Swann had played a role in him choosing the business as his next role.

IVC Evidensia, which is owned by a Swedish private equity firm, was valued at €3bn last year.