Cork & Olive Franchise Corp. Collapse: What’s the REAL Story?

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Fri, Jun 6 - 9:23 am EDT | 9 years ago by
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    corkandolivelogo (FranchisePick.Com) Yesterday, reported that the Cork & Olive Franchise Corp. had folded, that the eight company stores had closed, 40 employees had been abruptly laid off and the Cork & Olive franchisees, including one who opened just a week earlier, abandoned by their franchisor Michael Probst.

    According to the post on (Cork & Olive Wine Shop Franchise Owners Left High & Dry), Cork & Olive franchisor claimed he shut down after  a New York hedge fund that was going to invest about $3-million in the company insisted it take on controlling interest. Probst refused.   He shut down the company and laid off 40 employees as a matter of conscience (?)  Said Probst: “It’s unfortunate… but my conscience would not let me have our people continue working when we were short of money and could not support our franchises.”

    Unmentioned:  Nearly $1M in judgements against Cork & Olive Franchise Corp.& Michael Probst

    A comment left on yesterday’s post led to the discovery of a fact left out of the initial newspaper reports.  According to  the post What REALLY Uncorked Cork & Olive Franchise Corp? , there are nearly $1M in judgements outstanding against Cork & Olive Franchise Corp. and franchisor Michael Probst, including an $897,450.53 judgement owed to creditor CITRUS PARK VENTURE LIMITED PARTNERSHIP by ESTATE WINE GROUP, INC., CORK & OLIVE & MICHAEL PROBST and $ 11,226.56 owed to STATE OF FLORIDA, DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE by CORK & OLIVE FRANCHISE CORP.

    Something tells me there’s a lot more to this story than meets the eye… Stay tuned.



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      • Danielson

        If you believe Cork and Olive is a good model, to the point of buying a franchise, this shouldn’t change anything. You can still make it on your own. You will actually save the royalties you were paying Probst before. Great news for you!!
        Do I think C&O is a good model? Hardly…

      • MJ

        What’s the real story you ask? A terrible crook… Michael Probst. There is a lot more to the story than meets the eye. Ask Probst… he’s been taking money anywhere he can get it, even selling junk bonds. He has many judgements against him- I can’t believe he has been opened as long as he has. He doesn’t care about his employees. He’s only interested in himself.

      • sean

        Danielson has a good point.
        Aren’t the Cork & Olive franchise owners better off? If they form a buying co-op and negotiate their own deals, they’ll be both royalty-free and Probst-free. Unless the concept just isn’t viable…

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      • http://franchisepick Former Employee

        Keep your wallet, spair change & your first born well hidden from Probst! This man will say & do anything to get money out of unsuspecting, hard working people for his own financial gain while he ruined an excellent concept that would have made it if the right people had been in control of this company! If you want the truth about Probst and his co-founder, ask the corporate employees and Franchisees what this man and his co-founder have done from the first day Cork & Olive opened. The only consistent thing Probst & Nelson have done is lie, cheat and steal until they ruined a good company and the employees who sadly followed them through to the bitter end!

      • hmmm

        Former Employee..I totally agree..Michael did have a good concept but, unfortunately, his greed and ego is what ran the company into the ground. If only he would have listened to the people who worked for him the company would still be around..good luck on finding another job – stay away from Michael!

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      • Wanda

        Good advise Baby Boomers but at the time and up till now, there is no public record of a law suit between Probst and Ronzino. And I am sure there are many others. So how do you really check? Probst owes everybody money but he is allowed to go on with his “lavish life style”. It wasn’t until I posted his lawsuits on line did anyone mention them. Isn’t the FTC supposed to watch dog franchises? Under the UFOC franchisors aren’t supposed to sell a franchise with out that pending lawsuit listed. Maybe it is time to stop buying into franchises and return to the mom and pop business. Personal service without all the corp. bull.

      • ex -employee

        Let’s not forget Ms Augenti following Michael around like a puppy dog.

        Three Stooges – Probst, Nelson, Augenti

      • http://NA Former Employee Too

        It is sad to hear such a great concept got ruined by the “Evil Crook” that is Michael Probst. I had a bad feeling this would happen since we used to get calls from bill collectors at work. Not a lot of job security there! He got what was coming to him.

      • Another Former Employee

        The writing was on the wall a long time ago, people. When I left, they were routinely paying their employees late and not paying the vendors on a timely basis either. This was over a year ago. Bad business karma.

      • former employee

        check out
        Posts from Lady named Wanda – is ripping Probst,Nelson & Augenti…she must of worked corp – great info

      • moose

        to wanda/josh
        just because you are bitter after being fired from c&o you shouldn,t fib. your problem big ego and empty suit.

      • Wanda

        Never said I was fired. Not bitter at all. Just want the blood sucking cannibal to get what is do him-JAIL.
        Since you seem to be cozy with Probst obviously you don’t have any money, other wise he would have been after yours too. Maybe you helped him steal? Either way poo poo.

      • moose

        to wanda / josh
        people who know you will understand your bitterness. also you are not out any money . so are you the defender of all of the people who have a legitimate beef. go find a job and move on.

      • john

        Wanda, you are perfectly right on mikey, so whoever moose is obviously, is tied to him. and who cares if wanda is an ex employee, fired or whatever. if someone was fired it was probably my guess because they are honest, people like that don’t like good people they stick with their own kind. so Wanda keep up the great job on the insight. like i said before we have all been taken for so much money, it just feels right to vent about this. since he will just flee the country and live his rest of his life smoking and drinking.

      • Kelly aka MM

        You tell it like it is-those who have a vested interest in the gravy train continuing will call you crazy, suggest counseling for your mental disorder, suggest you move on to something more constructive because you are bitter or obsessed, and try to marginalize you and shut you up for the expressed purpose of being able to continue to operate nefariously under everyyone’s radar-
        You are crapping in their sand box and they don’t like it.
        Shine the bright light on them and keep it up!
        K aka MM

      • former employee

        Listen Wanda…. you know who Moose is… she used to work at Brandon before being canned… she tried to say… C&O fired her for her gay lifestyle of which had friggin nothing to do with anything….. another one of her smoother moves…so moose… chill out…. all ex-employees are bothered by this so there is no reason to be acting like a donkey. you need to move on

      • former employee

        and Moose…..why can’t you just leave well enough alone…you haven’t been part of this organization for quite some time and even whenyou were… you were not part of the organization because you were never working, only long enough to show up, unlock the door and say you had to leave, so you are just as guilt as Mr Probst when it comes to stealing, only you were stealing time and it eventually caught up with you and now youre mad cuz you got caught… I worked with you and had to cover your butt wayy too much and just got fed up with you.. so why don’t YOU leave well enough alone and move on dang woman.

      • former employee

        matter of fact… MOOSE could ACTUALLY EVEN BE AUGENTI using another cover up….
        she’s one of those that can’t stand the TRUTH… or wouldn’t know it if it hit her in the face… it would ruin her latest cosmestic surgery!
        chill AUGENTI or more will come out about YOU

      • former employee

        I thought we were all on the same team… that is… except for MOOSE…. of course it’s augenti…. she’s the only one who will stick up for mikey. guess she’s still hoping to get her money out of him! GOOD LUCK

      • Wanda

        Okay Mr. Moose,
        You don’t know anything, unless of course this is Probst. What I have lost is of no concern to anyone but myself.
        Now on to more info. Bush Ross Law Firm and John Giordano is the attorney that wrote the agreements for the sale of bogus stocks. He also owns 5%, so don’t use that firm. The other attorney also in bed with Probst is Jeffery Stull.

      • Kelly aka MM

        Um, excuse my ignance-
        but isn’t there a problem with an attorney entering into an agreement with a non-attorney business entity, when the attorney receives monetary compensation from the association?
        Check out the ABA- Model Code of Professional Conduct.
        (I think that’s what it’s called)

      • Wanda

        Yes, I am sure it is alright for an attorney to enter into a business agreement with a company. But when that attorney knows what Probst was doing and still continued to “work” for him. That is until I said I would be bringing this out to all that would listen. Then the attorney of record changed to Stull.

      • former employee

        Just googling around and found all these comments. Talk about bad blood! I worked for these guys even though I knew the writing was on the wall. It’s not just the 40 of us who got screwed, it’s all the customers he let down. If Michael had an ounce of integrity he would have taken the New York money and held the company together. We all knew about the ego, but this was just the final stupid business move among many. By the way, the one way to go after money owed to you by a business that has filed for bankruptcy is to go after the owner of that business directly. Probably not worth the legal expense for most of us, but it would just be fun to see Michael’s latest expensive car being towed out of his driveway!

      • former employee

        actually… Stull has been with Probst from the beginning of C and O

      • taken

        you are so good, thank you for that information. cons everywhere!

      • Wanda

        And what slime he is!

      • sean

        Just googling around and found all these comments. Talk about bad blood!
        Check out the conversation at for worse blood than this…

      • Wanda

        Remember Scott from St. Pete, he was fired because he had paid for health insurance and then found out the insurance wasn’t being paid by corp. He complained and then was fired.

      • well now

        Has anyone thought that when things starts getting a little rougher that Mr. Probst might decide to leave the country? and then he might be home free without any obligations whatsoever??? Does anyone know of a way to make sure that he cannot leave? Do the airlines needs to be alerted or whom ever can be contacted so this cannot happen??? ANY IDEAS??? We cannot allow him to just pick up and leave!

      • Wanda

        Any paper work you may still have please keep it. Probst and Plasto woman advertised through the mail to sell franchises- mail fraud. Also Probst called people for money if they didn’t want to purchase a franchise- FBI here we come

        • Vincent Shook

          Hi Wanda;
          I know this is replying to a comment by you over 4 years ago, but I hope it finds you. We are looking at doing a licensing agreement for people interested in selling just our wine. Would you have a copy of the Cork and Olive franchise agreement you signed with them that we could look at? I would be willing to purchase a copy from you. We want to look at specific language in the contract pertaining to approved products allowed to be sold. In particular, we want to know if the franchisor was able to limit from whom you purchased your wine or the kind of wine you purchased.
          Vince Shook
          Florida Orange Groves Winery

          phone 1-800-338-7923

      • Wanda

        Does anyone know if the closed corp. stores has air conditioning? The reason I asked is if the wine is still in the stores it must be cooked by now. Did anyone liquidate the stock? Did Rainer remove the wine from the stores? Are the franchisees entitled to the wine?
        Just wondering…

      • say whut

        wanda… far as I know the AC was shut off by Ms. Nelson the same day the corp office shut down-another smart move of hers! NOT. the wine has probably turned to vinegar now even though most of it was vinegar to begin with. I wonder how many bottles have blown their corks! LOL The only stores that the inventory was removed out of was st. Pete – since we unfortunately lost the lease yeah whatever it’s called didn’t pay the rent yet again! thanks for the lie once again Ms. Nelson! You never gave any of your employees credit for having a brain and thought you were able to patronize them yet again BUT we knew better! actually it was YOU STEPHANIE who didnt have a brain or you would have started being an honest citizen from day one and not listen to your sugardaddy! i also believe the wine is “owned’ by the investors of the particular stores. Word has it that early this week we will know if it’s chapter 11 or 7 and without a doubt it will be chapter 7 cuz mikey doesn’t have any money to open any stores let alone have funds for workers comp or liability insurance! finally!!! he can’t be a wolf in sheeps clothing anymore!

      • say whut

        for some odd reason… the last posting from WANDA doesn’t seem to be questions WANDA would ask… nor her writing… why do I think it could possible be Ms. nelson inquiring from CA or is it Mexico by now? hmm.

      • yetanotherformeremployee

        I worked at the Brandon store, which, as far as I knew, was one of the better-performing stores (I also used to work at the Valrico store a couple of years ago).

        My main beef is that I got ripped off for my last paycheck. Did anyone get paid for the last week?

      • yet another former employee

        Yikes…..all this is so ugly…but I have to agree and say that I am not surprised, due to the way the owners of C&O ran the stores and managed their employees…it was just bad business!!!

      • another another ex employee

        regarding paycheck yes 1 person got paid stephanie nelson she paid herself and for 2 weeks vacation to b4 leaving town. sweet eh? ask her oh wait she will lie again bout that 2. ck the books they dont lie. well thats a lie 2. but wait there is a new accountant and she doesnt lie so she would tell the truth. I WANT PAID THIS ISN’T FAIR MICHAEL AND STEPHANIE!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Kim – former Controller

        I walked out of C&O in June 07 after working there only 2 months. I warned an employee at the Valrico store that she should “get out now” and when Stephanie heard this she threatened to sue me. I wrote the self appointed Director of Operations who is really just a bartender a nasty letter about how she continues to lie to people, even after some paychecks BOUNCED! People who continued to work there after June 07 were really stupid. It was all over way back then. I actually went to work for the guy who kept trying to get paid for the floors installed in the stores! What a joke.

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      • Solera

        Interesting. I’ve being following the industry in the last 5 years. C&O appeared to me as a good biz concept. Then all this debacle. A closed friend was “victimized” by them; Corporate America, she said to me. Now, the last month I found on Craiglist an add of a biz looking for investors in a Wholesale Wine Franchise. I found out that Michael Probst is the head of this new venture branded as “Solera Distributors /” . I did contacted the DM and asked him about their conection with the Solera Imports Co. ; openly this person related his biz with the Importers which holds a well gained reputation in the industry for the last 20 years or so. I also, contacted Solera Imports and they don’t have a clue about it. What do you think guys? … the concept of “free enterprise USA” is again challenged ?

      • Sean Kelly

        More stories and lots of discussion about Cork & Olive, Michael Probst & related craziness is available on

        Theyt would certainly be interested in learning about Michael Probst’s latest activities.

      • admin

        Cork & Olive’s Michael Probst, Deborah Augenti launch new franchise
        Have you heard about this? Your input is invited:

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