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Forte Franchise Hits Sour Note

Editor's note: I have converted this news summary article into a forum since the story has turned into a long-term discussion group on Forte School of Music.

Franchisee complaints of profitability misrepresentation are a common and international one and yet franchisors throughout the world continue to insist they would never sell franchises on the back of return on investment [ROI] projections.  It is difficult for me after 21 years in the franchising industry to comprehend how any investor could possibly be attracted to a major investment without such input from sellers?  I don't have a problem with the provision of such information when it is accurate but when it is inaccurate and designed to scam it is clearly fraud.

At the center of numerous complaints of failure to deliver on promised support and training and breaches of Australia's Franchise Code of Conduct by the Forte School of Music franchise is that ugly complaint yet again.  In two articles this week from journalist Tuck Thompson, Forte franchisee's blast the franchisor for what can be summed up to be a franchise model that simply doesn't return on investment.  Courier Mail June 23 2009

The man alleged to have provided misleading profit projections to franchisees is Chief Operations Officer Paul Myatt. Myatt is said to have recently become a franchise owner in his own right when a departing franchisee who had invested almost $200,000 sold his franchise for $1.

Not surprisingly, and also not uncommon, we have a franchisor assuring readers that the complaints are ‘baseless' and from ‘a small number of disaffected franchisees'.   [Courier Mail June 25 2009 attachment

Forte School of Music has 10 franchises in Australia, two in New Zealand and three in the United Kingdom.  Since August 2008 I have been in communication with this ‘small group' of complaining Forte franchisees which surprisingly totaled a ‘small group' of 60% of the Australian network.  In a meeting last year in Brisbane franchisees tabled what I could only accept as evidence of a model that didn't deliver, breaches of the Franchise Code and breach of music copyright.

The Forte CEO mentioned at that meeting, Philip Ciniglio, was said to be avoiding Code mandatory mediation and yet he was an accredited Mediator with Australia's Office of [Franchise] Mediation Advisor and the then Queensland representative for the Franchise Council of Australia.

Forte franchisor, Gillian Erskine, now states that ‘mediation was not successful' and they will pursue matters in Court.  The Australian Competition and Commission [ACCC] continues to investigate Forte franchisee complaints.

I need to point out that the ACCC has a relationship with Ciniglio's FCA just as it has with former chairman of FCA John O'Brien.  O'Brien's Poolwerx franchise was most recently awarded an exemption from third-line forcing [tie-in] on across the board franchisee purchases. 

Clearly the ACCC rely on FCA for direction on franchising regulation.  The ACCC's record of investigations into franchising is abysmal and the resulting findings from across Australia have produced great criticism in the media from many brands, for many years including Kleenmaid, Bakers Delights, Lenards Chicken, Midas Car Care to name only a few.  Whether there is a direct relationship with the ACCC and an FCA representative does not seem to matter in the ACCC not pursuing franchisee complaints; but it seems to help.

On the upside; Forte franchisees seem to believe the franchise system is ready to crumble and suggest their best defense is a strong offense considering their combined arsenal of evidentiary ammunition.

In relation to rejecting that profit projections are commonly given to prospective franchisees regulators should consider my recent statement to Australia's Minister for Small Business, Craig Emerson, on broader government failures; ‘this is you p*^^ing down the back of every Australian franchisee and telling them it's raining'.


Related Reading:

Forte & Ciniglio
ACCC Investigations and Affiliations

Forte School of Music 25-06-09.pdf1.16 MB

280 Forum Remarks

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learning lab

They may have ditched the name compass learning centre, but is now called the learning lab.

Name change to compass learning centre?

Paul Myatt, Dee Why, Forte and same telephone number. He seems to be starting one in Bondi too.

Oh sale of dee why

Paul myatt is planning to sell dee why for $195,000!

paul myatt and Forte Dee Why

Going rate for a Forte Franchise is a $1. anything more is way to much.

now $225,000

He's increased the price...

I worked for Forte for 7

I worked for Forte for 7 years. These guys offered me a franchise and Paul advised "why bother getting a solicitor to look at the contract? We all know what their like." Lucky I knew what Paul was like too. My accountant friend at the time said don't touch their offer with a barge pole!!! Some friends are truly worth their weight in gold! Needless to say I left the employment of Forte have been successful in my own right ever since!!!

The Three Main players of the Forte School of Music Scam

Gillian PhilPaul Here we have the 3 main players from the Forte School of Music Scam, Gillian Erskine, Philip Ciniglio ( Former Board Member of the Franchise Council of Australia) and last but not least Paul Myatt.

Ray Borradale's picture

ACCC surprise Forte

Yet another 'investigation' by the ACCC has failed to find adequate evidence to proceed against the now almost invisible Forte School of Music franchise.  Another usual response from the ACCC again suggests civil action. Consistent and nothing else.

Forte has left New Zealand.

Forte School of Music has now left New Zealand they keep getting smaller. who will be the last?

Still operating, but as a franchisee??

It looks like Forte does still have a some sort of presence. Just making sure not to muddy the whole MEC with the Forte name. Wonder if they pay franchise fees??!!

Ray Borradale's picture

Ciniglio spits dummy at ex

Phil Ciniglio has joined the ranks of others in Australian franchising who haven’t learnt that intimidation attempts are insulting to ex-zees and should be embarrassing to the clowns that spit them out. If you are a rational ex-zee and you still have a bad case of the nasties then that would tend to mean you’ve been hardened and you are on a mission.

Phil is chasing an ex-franchisee where Ciniglio’s lawyers, Bywaters Timms, claim the ex-zee has defamed the famed ex-FCA delegate and current FCA speaker.

The zee has indeed been educating franchisors that Phil isn’t qualified to speak on successful franchising given his record with Forte [and possibly Samsara] where he claimed to be a director and wasn’t … and that’s according to reliable sources that would leave Phil stammering. Phil is also miffed that the zee claimed Ciniglio was involved with breaches of the Code at Forte; but he was.

The claim that Phil wasn’t involved in acknowledged breaches of the Code are shot down in writing by people who I would expect to know at least that.  Whether they acted on it or not is another entirely different matter.

It always amazes me when in these situations, the franchisees don’t look at what hasn’t been claimed to be defamatory and therefore has seemingly been accepted by the ‘aggrieved’ party as beyond any offensive reaction.  They simply sit on the evidence negating the claims made.

Why Phil’s lawyers haven’t noted my opinion of Phil’s performance and sent me one of those weak ass ‘Concern Notices’ is beyond me. I checked my file on franchisor tantrums and legal threats directed at me and the Phil file is as devoid of content as is his qualifications to discuss successful franchising. But I would suggest he is as qualified as any of the other FCA speakers.

Now as far as considering a written apology and undertaking to refrain from entering into any further [alleged] defamatory action if you look to me you can take this little comment as about all you’ll get.  The threat of 3 years in jail is pathetic and the response to that is as follows; bite me. 

You see; truth is a defence and either civil or criminal pursuit would be a wonderful little 5 minute distraction where any Court official without a sense of humour would kick your butt straight out the door making for a great pic in business news. Perhaps you should consider getting an FCA associated lawyerwho won’t waste your money given your future earning potential.

But it is nice to know that the zee hit your pocket and still is. And just to end on a positive note …. Bite Me!  Must run; time to vacuum my tent.

Forte Conference this weekend at AMAC

Good luck to all those franchisees participating in the 'National' Forte conference this weekend. Sorry Saturday.

What's that? Not ALL franchisees? No one going from NSW??

And what's that? The largest franchisee has been told they're not welcome?

Good luck is right. Power sharing and caring with the select few. I'd like to see that. But of course - I can't.

How can the Forte School of

How can the Forte School of Music Franchise have a conference for franchisees and not invite all franchisees? This franchise certainly does not seem open and accountable for their actions by what I have read on Blue Mau Mau. Does anybody know out of the huge number of franchisees how many are actually attending this conference? How many Conferences has Forte held over the years and have they been successful?


Make yourself heard! Complain

If you have been a victim of Fraud at the hands of Forte School of Music, Gillian Erskine, Paul Myatt & Phil Ciniglio make yourself heard, make an online complaint to ASIC below is the link.

Your Voice needs to heard to stop this scam happening to more people.

You can also report the Forte

You can also report the Forte School of Music Franchise SCAM to Office of Fair trading.

As a current franchise owner

As a current franchise owner who feels I have been scamed by Paul Myatt, Gillian Erskine & Phil Ciniglio. I have already lodged a complaint with the NSW Office of Fair Trading. These crooks will get what is coming to them.

Scam Watch Australia

Another site you can report the scam of Forte School of Music which involves Gillain Erskine, Paul Myatt, Phil Cingilio & Ian Erskine is


Well done!!!

More of it I say

Barbara Jorgensen's picture

Over 200 comments

What a great testimony to people who are great people who want to warn people not to get involved with a rogue zor.  If all the people in the franchise world would give some time to warn others I really believe the rogue zors would have to clean up their act. 

Good job Ray.  You are really a good man.

Rogue Franchisors

More franchisee concerns can be viewed at:
Ray Borradale's picture

Re: 200

They are not mine Barbara - and comments count for little compared to action.  Thankfully some of these franchisees have acted and many that contributed have made it impossible for this franchisor to consider 'growth' [at least at the moment].  If they have shared enough to help others than that is fulfilling an obligation that some take on after learning the hard way.  But what will happen to those that sit and wait - that is out of everyone's hands.  Maybe Forte will fall over soon but while there is a dollar to be gleaned there will be a hand in their pocket and while there is a hand in their pocket it isn't over. 

From experience I have learnt that the death throes can last a hell of a long time and as those who failed or managed an exit dissapear those that are left can refuel the monstor.  And without bad press almost magically a new generation of franchisees appear.

But thank you anyway and now I would ask you to speak to my wife; please.

Warning Signs

The Franchisor Runs the Business from a Home Office: If the franchisor has a number of franchises in operation yet continues to run the “head office” from home, you should ask why this set-up is in place and ask for the address. The franchisor should not refuse and you should arrange a door visit to verify.

What ever happened to these Forte School of Music Locations?

Forte School of Music Strathpine

Forte School of Music Grange

Forte School of Music Wahroonga

Forte School of Music Coorparoo

Forte School of Music Bathurst

Forte School of Music Springwood

Forte School of Music Aspley

Forte School of Music Northside

Forte School of Music Castle Hill

Forte School of Music Gordon

Forte School of Music Sunnybank                            


Funnily Enough

I don't think the majority of those schools appeared as closures in the Disclosure Document.  I'm sure Paul and Gillian had some very worthy justification for leaving them out??.....  And I'm sure Philip Ciniglio eased their conscience by telling them it was good for the business. 

let's give this a go



Forte School of Music Strathpine - owner by an original Forte director, litigated out

Forte School of Music Grange - ditto

Forte School of Music Wahroonga - satellite school, not a viable stand alone, so closed down and absorbed into Gordon

Forte School of Music Coorparoo - withdrew from Forte claiming no viable agreement

Forte School of Music Bathurst -so called 'small box' franchise, closed down

Forte School of Music Springwood - originally part of a 2 school/1 unit franchise, changed by franchisor to 2 fee paying franchises. Unprofitable so closed down

Forte School of Music Aspley - an original Forte director's school?

Forte School of Music Northside-franchise terminated by the franchisor

Forte School of Music Castle Hill- Unprofitable so closed down. Franchisor claims owner had a 'mental problem'

Forte School of Music Gordon - became the largest Forte school in Sydney at one time, did not renew an end of term.

Forte School of Music Sunnybank   -another satellite, unviable as a stand alone

Forte School of Spring Hill - closed supposedly due to lack of parking

Forte School of Music Kingaroy - terminated by franchisor

Forte School of Music Rockhampton   - terminated by franchisor?

Forte School of Music Chatswood - originally a satellite, made into a stand alone,  unprofitable, closed down and absorbed some into Gordon.


Forte School of Music Ormeau

Forte School of Music Ormeau was a satellite of a Franchisee was unprofitable was then taken over by Forte National Office closed not long after that. Forte School of Music Yeronga was another satellite school closed down unprofitable.

Ray Borradale's picture

OK, I did my bit

now tell me what will be the effect of the 'new' contract?

At this point in time I am going to let the dice roll - but with great concern as to the Toowong buyer who after a discussion does not sound like an idiot.  But then again; apparently neither do I every second day.

The new contract'; growth ...profitability ... longevity?

As to Forte contracts,

As to Forte contracts, someone kind of answered this a little already. As to growth, profitiability and longevity.

GROWTH - of the franchise system, given its history and the lack of interest in anyone buying into it, including the total absence of stand alone Jungle Music franchises ever being sold, compounded by the fact that there is no promise now into the future of development of materials and courses or even just catching up, it is hard to see growth as being a significant factor. As a franchisee I don't even know whether this is a goal at all.

That leads to the question of-

LONGEVITY - given also then that there are several current franchises whose agreements are set to expire within the next 2 years, and that there are no new ones coming through, one would have to have a fairly dim view of the future as a franchise.

All this is compounded by the fact that during the 'reign' of Philip Ciniglio, his aim was to grow it exponentially (some mathematician might like to crunch those figures for him for his CV or his KPI's) by offering the franchises to sale to people who had no musical experience or background at all. He said it was a sales and marketing business at heart. Consequently a bit of money went his way, a bit went the way of the franchisors in the setting up of a couple of schools under that model, and as they say, the rest is history. The profitability of those schools speaks for itself.

PROFITABILITY - this is not a huge money making business no matter how much you try to spin it and manipulate figures. There would be a reason why no one else has franchised their music teaching business, which is the claim made by Forte on their website, as if that was an indicator in itself of how successful it is. With the new contracts not as much money is being thrown at the franchisor but some schools still struggle. The ones which do ok are the ones with the owner and their family involved who are prepared to work for nothing or close to it. The school numbers for it to be super successful would have to be near 1000 students. I believe that Toowong was operating at close to 750-800 for a while and doing well, but if it is true they were not paying fees then it is hardly fair to even begin to make comparisons or offer it up as a guide, which it always was. As Towong was also the input school for all advertising one would have to imagine they got a leg up there too, especially when a satellite school of theirs was within touching distance of another franchise. That whole Toowong scenario is the stuff of a whole other blog.

It is disappointing because there are a whole lot of very talented and passionate people in this franchise who enjoy doing what they do but who have been seriously let down. But it is also this passion which has made them focus on keeping things going in their own little world and trying to ignore the trouble brewing.

To the person that has

To the person that has written the above AS For Forte Contracts. Dont ever doubt yourself if you can manage to get through the shonky scam that this blog has described and you can get away from? Well you know what I mean, there is some wonderful other material out on the market place that is truly educational without all the other crap that goes with it. Good Luck and keep enjoying your teaching.

You have got to be joking!

You have got to be joking! How does a small franchise operation exist with such an exit rate? Does anyone know how profitable the remaining franchises are? IF they are profitable?

My heart goes out to you folks struggling through this one.

There was a Forte in

There was a Forte in Chatswood for a while as well.

And another ex Forte in

And another ex Forte in Spring Hill.

I think there was a Forte

I think there was a Forte School of Music in Kingaroy and Rockhampton as well. The list of failed Schools seems a very long list for such a small franchise.  

I bet the ZOR blames the

I bet the ZOR blames the individual franchisees for all the failures? Lack of Local marketing etc. At what point do these criminals look in the mirror and see the truth that everyone else can see. You cannot have such a failure rate and last much longer as a franchise.

Ray Borradale's picture

the Forte contract

who has seen the new Forte contract?  I would like to.

I'm not sure anything can save Forte, a new contract means diddly if the zor stays.  I would think it fairly obvious that there has been abusive behaviour and a new 'franchise' contract does not produce trust.  And then there are the internet memories .....

When a zor finds out that it is in control of a piece of rubbish it can react with the network to find out if there is a workable solution; or it can try and protect it's butt with bull and bully and run the whole damn shooting match into the ground .. eventually.

Now if I were to buy the whole damn shooting match I would want to know there was change for $2.


Here goes Borradale again pretending to be a solicitor and asking to see contracts. Best to leave contract interpretation to the lawyers Borradale.

The new contract is a darn

The new contract is a darn sight better than the old one only in terms of the amount of money to be paid in fees. But in exchange for this there is no Head Office, no support, no future development of product or equipment, no pool of advertising. The new contracts have been around since last year. Effectively the new contracts, as with the old ones, are just a licence to use the name Forte, which in the whole scheme of things could be a good thing or a bad thing. The agreements are as one-sided towards the franchisor as ever, which is not that much different it would seem from many franchise contracts. I think most people have signed onto the new contract, if not all to take advantage of the lesser burden on fees.

There have always been different types of agreements, especially in terms of fee structure so it is unclear whether this is still the case. Don't know any of the deals with overseas schools.

There has not been a huge rush of new takers on the strength of it.

Most people HAVE signed on or

Most people HAVE signed on or have been trying to do so. There are 2 in Australia who have been trying to negotiate the exit provisions of the 'old contract' before signing the new one. UK schools may also be yet to sign their new contract/agreement version.

However one franchisee in the middle of negotiations, has just recently been denied access to the new contract. The implications of this decision are pretty enormous.

The implications?

enormous?? Try up to 500% more enormous than anyone else. That's obesity at its worst.


Given that there are now just

Given that there are now just 11 Fortes in Australia + plus one company school stolen for $1, it's not a good looking statistic for 15 years. What's the bet that number will be even less by year's end.

As far as Forte school

As far as Forte school closures, you also have to take into consideration ones which were sold for a huge loss, including the 2 for $1, or which were forced sales, one with a requirement for further service to be owed to Head Office as repayment. It is amazing to look at the numbers which involved apparent 'successful' court action by the franchisor. There must be a sad trail of untold stories about this franchise which would make a long running series for TV.

Gillian Erskine in court.


I did hear that Gillian Erskine was seen attending the Magistrates Court in Brisbane last week, not sure what issues she was attending too.

Gillian Erskine, Paul Myatt, Philip Ciniglio & Ian Erskine

As someone watching this discussion board, and having read the articles on the Courier Mail website, I am amazed that the above mentioned people have been able to get away with all this behaviour for so many years. Well done to the current and ex franchisee's and also former staff for standing up to the criminals that Gillian Erskine, Paul Myatt, Philip Ciniglio & Ian Erskine (Barrister) are. I think people need to know that Ian Erskine had a very heavy involment behind the scenes in the formation of Forte School of Music and pushing out other Directors from the original group. His position as a barrister was then used to bully franchisee's into submission, becuase the poor franchisee had no financial means to bring these criminals to account.

Please explain???

Creative Learning Centre?



Changed same Company

 Forte School of Music ACN  060 946 974 changed their name from Creative Learning Centre Australia 

ACN 060 946 974 same company number.

So in fact if there are any

So in fact if there are any older music schools left they are called Creative Learning Centres?

The question to be asked is how the Forte concept got off the ground with several others I assume who were involved in the planning stages, who were 'pushed' out, and who said it would not work as a franchise model. So why did anybody buy into it all if all these facts are known?

Is there the usual spiel of "proven model" or 'concept'? How has it become proven?

Are all these problems only coming to the surface now? Why?

If it's not working one has to ask why it isn't? Or whether it ever did? And what proof there was ever given that it did?

All these problems are coming

All these problems are coming out now for ex franchisee's are now willing to speak up, there never has been any proven business model. Toowong was what people always try to copy but Gillian never paid franchise fees and never paid her fair share of the advertsing pool. Everyone else was set up to fail. The only people now who can keep Gillian & Paul accountable for their actions are current franchisee's the few that are left.  Ray is so correct with the last one left please pay the bill and this will not be Gillian it will be the franchisees.

I have to confess that seeing

I have to confess that seeing all this is a bit of a case of "there but for the grace of God go I". If I can find some comments made by a franchise advisory centre I went to about this years ago I will post it later. Enough to say I loved the idea but there were too many things seemed hidden - and I think I am starting to see them come out. It may be a quite simplisitic question but how come there has been a relatively new school open up in Perth of all places?? I guess no franchise advisors there knew about it. And who would be advising the person who is buying Toowong that I read somewhere else on this blog?


The Poor Person Thinking of Buying Toowong

Has been told the full story by ex franchisees, and if he goes ahead with this foolish purchase he will quite likely ruin his and his parents' lives as they are helping him finance this potential disaster.

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About Ray Borradale

Ray Borradale's picture

Public Profile

Over forty years experience in Small Business and more than twenty-five years in franchising operations as a franchisee and employed by three franchisors, mostly in operations.

I have dedicated more than ten years and over 15,000 hours in the pursuit of quality franchising and exposing franchisor abuse of franchisees while advocating for the introduction of franchise relationship Law and the levelling of the dispute processes between bigger business and small business.


Area of Interest
Franchise Operations