Creatas/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Copa Di Vino founder James Martin isn’t bothered by the fact that the “sharks” of ABC’s Shark Tank don’t have fond memories of his two infamous appearances on the hit entrepreneurial reality show.
That’s because, despite walking away from the sharks’ offers twice and being known as one of the sharks’ most disliked inventors, Martin’s product is one of Shark Tank‘s most successful.
“We all know the sharks blew it and missed out on the biggest opportunity they ever had — which was me,” Martin told ABC News.
Martin created Copa Di Vino, an on-the-go beverage with a portfolio of seven different types of wine that come in a patented, single-serving, plastic container with a pull-off and resealable lid.
Martin’s Oregon-based, family-owned winery struggled for years before making a profit. When the opportunity arose to appear on the second season of Shark Tank in 2011, Martin jumped at the possibility. He asked the sharks for $600,000 in exchange for 30 percent of his business to help create more inventory.
At first all the sharks expressed interest and quickly began making offers, including Shark Kevin O’Leary, who went on to launch his own wine label, O’Leary Fine Wines, in October 2012.
“[The container] that’s never been done in wine before, and I grant him that was a good move,” O’Leary told ABC News. “The problem with him … is he tried to sell me … on a winery. Now, I’m in the winery business. That is a bad business.”
O’Leary wanted Martin to separate the patent for the Copa Di Vino container from the wine itself so he could focus on licensing the container’s technology to other winemakers, but Martin wouldn’t budge.
Other sharks pitched deals, but as Martin continued to turn down offers, they became less interested with his arrogant attitude. The sharks also commented that Martin seemed to be sweating profusely throughout his pitch. Martin said he was sweating because he became too hot under the TV lights in his turtleneck sweater.
“I started melting and under the pressure of Kevin O’Leary trying to split my company into two, I really started to melt,” Martin said. “For me, all I was trying to do was figure out how to get a taxi to get me out of here. … You see about 10 minutes of the exchange but I was actually out there under those lights for 45 minutes in that pressure of the tank, in the pressure of five different entrepreneurs who are very, very intelligent all firing questions at you, sometimes two or three at the same time.”
In the end, Martin brushed off the sharks’ advice and left without accepting any offers.
But soon after his episode aired, Martin said he received numerous offers from people wanting to invest in his company and Copa Di Vino took off.
Shark Tank producers took notice of Copa Di Vino’s success and offered Martin a rare second chance to go “back in the tank.” He re-pitched the product to the sharks the following year. By that time, Martin said Copa Di Vino had gone from $600,000 to $5 million in sales in just one year.
“I had a hate for Kevin O’Leary at a level that wasn’t healthy at all and my opportunity to come back was also my chance to get the last word in and say, ‘Look, you blew it, but I’m also gracious enough to give you a second chance,’” Martin told ABC News.
But again, Shark Barbara Corcoran said she didn’t appreciate what she said was Martin’s “coy” attitude. “We didn’t respect him either,” she said.
The standoff between the sharks and Martin went into its second round when neither side budged on the same point they were stuck on the first time around. And seemingly instead of working with them to make a deal, Martin just kept taking sips of his wine.
“The second time he came on he stood out there, and he knew we all were interested, and he was trying to be too cool, too smart … thinking like he’s the man,” said Shark Mark Cuban. “It was a lot of money. We were negotiating. And he’s like, ‘I’m going to take a sip.’”
“I think in the second one he forgot his place,” added Shark Robert Herjavec. “He is not the shark. We’re the sharks.”
Even though Martin walked away, again, without any of the sharks’ investment, the chance to promote his product on national television twice had contributed to huge payoffs.
To date, Copa Di Vino has sold 38 million cups of wine in places ranging from local convenience stores and supermarket chains to Marriott hotels and sports arenas and stadiums, and the company claims to have made $12 million in sales in 2016. The brand has also expanded to include Copa Di Vino variety packs, t-shirts, beach coolers and even an “outdoor patio bar.”
“I didn’t need the sharks. They needed me,” Martin said. “They needed a really, really successful brand that went everywhere and they didn’t get it because they got greedy.”
The sharks, however, feel differently. All agree they have no regrets about passing on Copa Di Vino.
“Could you imagine dealing with him on an ongoing basis?” Cuban said.
“He would ruin our lives, our happy lives,” Corcoran added.
Watch the full story on ABC News 20/20 — Shark Tank on 20/20″– FRIDAY at 10 p.m. ET.
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