Friday, October 17, 2008

Entrepreneur has formula for success

Frank Sabatini is a diversified businessman who has made money in pizza, banking, convenience stores and ranching.In the late 1960s and early 70s, he implemented a model for growing his Pizza Hut business that has served him well in other enterprises.

He would get two partners to join him in a group. The first person would be the day-to-day manager and would get 20 percent ownership without putting any money down.

The next person was the supervisor, who would go on the line financially with Sabatini but would supervise the day-to-day manager with the goal of creating more restaurants. With multiple locations, the expenses per restaurant would go down and profits would go up. The third person would be Sabatini, who handled the legal work and finance.

Sabatini had groups in Kansas, Nebraska, Mississippi, Kentucky and Ohio. At his peak, he had ownership in more than 60 Pizza Huts. He sold most of his stores, but today he and Don Hazlett, of Lawrence, operate several stores in Kentucky and Ohio.

Wint Winter Sr., a former senator from Ottawa, has been a partner in business with Sabatini for many years. They used to play football together at KU and went to law school together. Winter said Sabatini is an "intelligent, capable person who is interested in the welfare of others. And he's easygoing. Frank is a people person. He can understand what makes you tick."

Sabatini likes to bring partners in like family.

"Most of my partners have done extremely well and are my best friends," Sabatini said. "They've made me what I am today. If I'm anything today, it's my partners that made me look good."

The Chicago native has flourished in Topeka and believes the community has more to offer budding entrepreneurs. Sabatini has owned Capital City Bank since 1979. Since then it has grown to 100 employees and $365 million in assets from 15 employees and $18 million in deposits since 1979. Sabatini is now chairman emeritus of the bank, and his son Matt is chairman. His other sons -- Marc, Mike and Dan -- serve on the board, along with his pizza business partner, Hazlett.

Italian roots

Sabatini's parents, Carmine and Lisetta Arquilla Sabatini, were from Raiano, Italy, a village surrounded by mountains near the Adriatic Sea, about two and a half hours east of Rome.

"My mother's family grew grapes," Sabatini said. "My dad's family were truck farmers. They raised cherries and figs and produce for their own consumption."

Seeking more opportunities than those available in Raiano, Carmine Sabatini moved in 1930 to South Chicago, where other Raiano natives lived. He worked for South Side Cement Co. One of Frank Sabatini's sisters was born in Italy, but he and another sister were born in the United States shortly after their parents settled in Chicago.

Frank Sabatini

  • Background: Born 1932 in Chicago to immigrant Italian parents
  • Business interests: Banking, Pizza Huts, ranching
  • Favorite book: "The Power of Positive Thinking" by Norman Vincent Peale.
  • His first Pizza Hut: 1969 at 8th and Iowa in Lawrence.
  • Bought Capital City Bank: 1979

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