Pavelić was born in Zagreb and experienced his only international swimming tournament at the 1924 Games in Paris, where he failed to advance beyond the first round of the men's 200 metre breaststroke event. He did, however, travel internationally with the Yugoslav national tennis and football teams (winning five caps 1927-30) and won the 1930 Yugoslav Football Championship with HŠK Concordia.
He eventually graduated from the University of Zagreb with a law degree and opened a private practice in the city after two years of work in the courts. Fluent in five languages, he built an international client base prior to World War II, eventually moving to Switzerland in 1943 during the conflict. While in the country, he competed actively in skiing.
Pavelić moved to New York City in 1946 and married his Swiss lover Irene Gmur. Soon after he founded Pavimpex Co., an import/export business focusing on lead and copper, with his brother. He moved to Greenwich, Connecticut in 1951 and continued his business, with an emphasis on specialty gifts from Italy and Austria. He retired in 1975 and his wife died in December 1984. Pavelić himself died in Greenwich in February 2011, at the age of 103.