Felix Sabates was born on September 9, 1945 in Camagüey, Cuba. He is the oldest of seven children. The Sabates family had several successful businesses including import and export, jewelry, optical stores, insurance sales, sugar, cattle, service stations and pharmacies. The Castro government confiscated all assets of the family and in June 1960 his parents put him on a flight to Miami. He was the first member of the family to enter the United States. Five of his six brothers and sisters would later arrive in the U.S. under Operation Peter Pan, sent to Albuquerque, New Mexico and placed in foster care. Sabates’ mother and youngest brother Art fled in 1963, while his father arrived in 1966 after being restricted by the Castro administration.
Sabates initially settled in Boston, Massachusetts with his aunt and uncle, before moving to Columbia, Missouri. He later moved with his family to North Carolina. There, he started working at City Chevrolet car dealership, offering to work for free on the condition that if he outselled the other salesman within a month, that he would be compensated and offered a permanent sales position. Sabates was successful with record car sales and when a local newspaper article had recounted this story about the top salesman, it caught the eye of a local businessman who proceeded to offer him a different sales position with potential growth as a manufacturer’s representative.
In 1969, Sabates accepted a position as a salesman for Top Sales Company, Inc. (TSC) which distributed retail products. Sabates would purchase the company in 1974. Early products distributed by TSC included well-known Atari game consoles and Teddy Ruxpin teddy bears. At its peak, TSC became the largest, most successful manufacturer’s representative company in the United States with over $12 billion in sales. In 2000, Sabates sold TSC to his employees at what was considered a well below market rate to reward the people that helped him build the business.
In 1988, Sabates purchased a Hatteras Yacht dealership in Stuart, Fla. and within two years Sabates had turned it into the largest Hatteras dealership in the world. He also owns IYC, one of the largest yacht management, charter, brokerage and new construction yachts companies in the world, with offices in Monaco, the Bahamas, Saint Martin and the U.S. He is also the president and CEO of FSS Holdings, Inc., a North Carolina-based holding company with holdings in several U.S. and international companies. Sabates owns and operates a Mercedes Benz dealership that is a four-time recipient of the Best of the Best Award given to only the top 10 percent of dealers nationwide. He also operates the largest volume Infiniti dealership in North Carolina as well as Hyundai, Mazda, Sprinter and Smart Car auto dealerships.
He is currently a partner in Chip Ganassi Racing teams, which fields teams in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, World Endurance Championship and the IndyCar Series. Sabates previously owned his own NASCAR team, SABCO Racing, until the end of the 2000 season when Chip Ganassi and Sabates became partners. In 2001, they became Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (Ganassi owning 80% of company, and Sabates the remaining 20%). He became responsible for hiring the first Latino driver in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series in 2006, former Indy 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya. Due to financial problems, the team merged with Dale Earnhardt, Inc. to form Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. The team would revert to the Ganassi Racing name in 2014.
In his nearly 30 seasons in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Sabates’ teams have 17 wins, 130 top-five and 352 top-10 finishes as well as 40 poles in nearly 1800 starts.
Sabates resides in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he has lived since 1963.