"Charismatic", "hard working", "visionary": those who knew the veterinarian doctor Pierre-Richard Dick remember an extraordinary personality. Exceptional qualities that the founder of Virbac would bring to animal health and to a formidable human adventure.
From his birth in Alsace in 1937, the only son of a small construction materials contractor, to his premature disappearance at sea in 1992, Pierre-Richard Dick would meet an atypical fate.
A character of hardened steel
Pierre-Richard Dick’s extraordinary strength of character was rooted in a childhood replete with hardships. In 1940, the loss of his father following injuries to the forehead during World War II left him orphaned and a ward of the State at just three years of age. That same year, his mother is forced to surrender the family home to German troops in Saverne, Alsace. She would raise her son alone, first in Dijon, then in Africa. At 11 years old, in the family sawmill in Schirmerck, Pierre-Richard Dick’s ankle is crushed by a logging truck. Another severe blow from which he would once again recover, after nine months of forced immobilization. Even going so far as to travel a thousand miles on foot across the Mauritanian Desert a decade later, during his military service with the Spahis! It was in the face of adversity that Pierre-Richard Dick built a foundation of values that would form a creed for his entire life.
Entrepreneur and builder
In 1961, fresh out of the Maisons-Alfort school, the young veterinary doctor Pierre-Richard Dick completes his training by taking a course in microbiology at the Pasteur Institute. There he acquires the knowledge that will guide him on the path to the first vaccines produced by Virbac. At 26 years old, he joins Ronchèse, the oldest biology laboratory in Nice. His work quickly earns him a promotion as research director. A brilliant career was in store for him at a laboratory with undisputed professionalism. But Dr. Dick’s ambitions are entirely different. An entrepreneur at heart, the young man had ideas to sell: what he dreamed of basically was to create his own laboratory and develop new medicines to combat animal diseases that were at the time hardly or poorly treated.
The origin of Virbac’s creation, a spark: the summer 1965 meeting between Pierre-Richard Dick and Max Rombi, who would remain his associate until the beginning of the ’80s. Six years his elder, Max Rombi had a small veterinary clinic in Nice. The two future co-founders, who shared loads of ideas and extraordinary intuition, immediately form a duo whose synergy was the miracle that brought Virbac to life. It was Pierre-Richard Dick who made a decision that would change everything: in the fall of 1967, he leaves the comfort of his position at Ronchèse and makes himself available to create a research laboratory, Virbac. Pierre-Richard Dick opens a veterinarian clinic in the Cap 3000 shopping center, a first in France. For two years, he will use the income from his practice to finance the purchase of raw materials and development of the first medicines. In 1970, he sells the clinic to devote 100% of his time to Virbac.
Ambition and intuition: an explosive mix
Who could believe, in January 1968, that the modest laboratory created in a small three-room apartment in Nice would 50 years later rank among the ten largest veterinary laboratories in the world? When preparing antibiotic powders for local veterinarians, did the young Dr. Pierre-Richard Dick have an inkling of what was to follow? His strategic choices were visionary from the outset, in any case. Starting in 1969, well before other laboratories, Virbac was actually focused on improving care for companion animals, even when food producing animals market was still a dominant market. At the urging of its CEO, the laboratory set its sights internationally, right from the start. Third inspired choice: that of innovation driven by the tangible needs of veterinarians, far from the rationale of basic research that he had known up until then. The foundation for long-term success had been laid. A solid foundation on which Virbac teams tirelessly capitalize to sustain a company steeped in human values, with a desire to harness innovation in order to address animal health issues.
Pierre-Richard Dick was and would forever remain a workaholic. He slept very little: three to four hours a night. And demonstrated an insatiable curiosity. He never stopped reading, researching, travelling, and meeting frequently with people, documenting all his observations and ideas in the small notebook that he always had on him. How many times would his employees find a page of his notebook or a scientific article published in other regions on their desk, with a suggestion from him to delve into the subject! For the veterinary doctor, knowledge and curiosity, which are at the root of innovation, as well as audacity and risk-taking, are the foundation of the greatest collective successes. These are the cornerstones of the Virbac spirit that teams continue to espouse today.
1961: a graduate of the Maisons-Alfort veterinary school, Pierre-Richard Dick joins the Pasteur Institute to complete his training in virology and bacteriology.
1968: Virbac, act one. The pharmaceutical company dedicated to veterinary products is set up in a small three-room apartment in Nice.
1985: at the urging of its founder, Virbac starts to trade on the Secondary Market of the Paris Stock Exchange.
1992: Pierre-Richard Dick dies at sea at the age of 55.
Campsite in Mauritania: towards the end of the ’50s, after his veterinary studies, doctor Pierre-Richard Dick travels more than a thousand kilometers in the desert as part of his military service. He uncovers a budding talent for leadership that will become his strength later in life.
Pierre-Richard Dick speaks to a gathering of veterinarians and Virbac employees at a reception at the Nice City Hall at the beginning of the ’80s.
Pierre-Richard Dick at the helm of his boat during the Swan Cup in 1982. Doctor Dick, his wife and their four children could often be found on board the family boat, sharing simple pleasures. It is at his side that his son, Jean-Pierre, discovers sailing, the pleasures and sensations of the regatta. It was also an opportunity to bond with his father.