Jack Stephens, DVM, the face of pet health insurance in the U.S., announced today that he is retiring from day-to-day responsibilities as president of Pets Best Insurance Services.
Dr. Stephens will remain one of three managers of the business, on its board of directors and a significant shareholder. Going forward, he said, he will be more focused on the company’s strategy.
“After 33 years in an all-consuming role of championing pet health insurance, I simply want to have more free time to travel with my wife, Vicki and enjoy life while I still have my health,” Stephens said. “Age does that to you.
“I cannot begin to tell you how happy I am right now,” he said Tuesday morning. “I am hiking Mount Kilimanjaro in February, then Vicki is joining me for Serengeti, Zanzibar and Rwanda for gorilla watching.”
Stephens will also be promoting his book, “A Different Kind of Veterinarian,” which is available on Amazon.
Stephens, 67, pioneered pet health insurance in the U.S., promoting it as a means to end economic euthanasia.
He did so after a trip to the grocery store in which he bumped into a client who had recently put down her cocker spaniel. The client was with her young daughter. “Do you remember Dr. Stephens?” she prompted the girl.
“Yes,” she replied. “You’re the man who killed my dog.”
Stephens founded Veterinary Pet Insurance in 1981. In 2005 he founded Pets Best, of Boise, Idaho, with Greg McDonald, now serving as CEO.
Chris L. Middleton, former chief operating officer of Pets Best, takes over as president of the company.
Stephens will continue to represent Pets Best in the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, which he co-founded.
He said it took him several years to find the right management team to make this leadership transition possible.
“I say that in complete candor, as my investment is still with Pets Best,” Stephens said.
Middleton has worked at Pets Best for more than four years, working his way up through the company. He started as marketing director, then worked as vice president of marketing and chief operating officer. As COO, he was responsible for promoting growth, hitting financial targets and developing product strategies.
Before joining Pets Best, Middleton spent 18 years in the technology field at Hewlett-Packard.