Family Business: Capital City Bank
The Chairman of the Board for Capital City Bank developed a fascination with flying while watching the comings and goings at Forbes Field from his childhood home. It led to flying lessons at the age of 14, a summer job at MidAmerica Aviation and, eventually, college at Embry Riddle Aeronautical School in Arizona.
Still, he says, landing at the family business with his father, Frank, 28 years ago isn't the drastic deviation in flight plan that one might think.
In flying as in finances, he says, "you have to focus and be precise in following the rules, but also adjust. If a storm's coming, you have to divert."
Dreams of A Father
Frank Sabatini went into the pizza business after attending the University of Kansas School of Law. His partner was football teammate Wint Winter. Frank says he and Winter often traveled together and talked pizza, but, when Winter purchased the bank in Ottawa, the talk turned to finances. As such, Frank says he told his friend, "if banking was all he was going to talk about, then I was going to have to buy a bank so I had something to talk about, too."
Enter Georgia Neese Gray, whose family owned Capital City Bank. Frank came to know her, both through personal financial dealings and doing some of her legal work. Neese Gray mentioned selling the bank as early as 1972, Franks says. However, she already made a commitment to another buyer. Frank honed his knowledge of the industry, even serving on the board for Fidelity Bank. When Capital City came up for sale again in 1979, Frank made a successful bid.
"I had always wanted a business of my own that I could pass on to my family," he said.
A Family Affair
Among Frank’s first moves was putting all four of his sons on the bank’s board of directors.
“This would allow them to continue their own careers yet still be a part of the bank organization,” Frank said.
Matt says convincing him to come on board in a more hands-on, daily capacity was simple economics—unable to find a position as a pilot for a freight carrier and with a child on the way, he needed a job. The entrepreneurial aspect of a small business and the chance to help his parents tipped the scales. He started brokering the sale of office space in the structure his father was building next to the bank building. From there, he moved through the bank’s various departments, starting as a teller and moving on through collections and lending.
“That’s the way you do it – you learn everything,” Matt said. “You can’t just throw someone in.”
Along the way, Matt says, consulting with his brothers Marc, Mike and Dan as board members has been an added bonus. He says all have different personalities, but, when it comes to the business, all share the same vision.
“It’s just a great environment,” Matt said. “It’s kind of like having a Christmas holiday all the time.”
Frank also places a high priority on serving the community. In fact, he says, it has been a guiding principle of his business.
“I had a philosophy that, to make a loan, I had to be able to drive to the collateral in an hour and that was my circle of people I would loan money to,” he said.
Matt says it is a philosophy that extends beyond business decisions.
“Giving back is huge,” he said. “That’s been a lot of the success of this bank. It goes back to Georgia Neese Gray and my father and today. Banking 101 is to spur and drive the community you’re in.”
Flying Toward The Future
Today, Frank serves as Capital City Bank’s Chairman Emeritus while Matt is Chairman of the Board. From two locations and 17 associates in 1979 to 10 locations with 110 associates now, Frank believes he has built a foundation that will allow his family to soar. He says he emulated his uncle, who owned a construction company in Chicago.
“I learned how he would get a job but then he would turn it over to my dad and his children to get a job done. That develops a strong organization and that is the technique I used to grow the bank,” Frank said. “You get to see family members becoming successful and see the strength they have developed through the years.”
As for who will develop their strengths in banking next, Matt says there is plenty of time. He and his brothers have nine children between them, ranging from elementary school to college age.
“It would be nice to carry on the tradition,” Matt said. “We would welcome their involvement but understand that they must decide the career path that is best for them.”