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Miss Universe, on the ropes: Thai company that owns the pageant files for debt rescue

JKN Global Group, led by businesswoman and trans activist Jakapong Anne Jakrajutatip, has asked Thailand’s Central Bankruptcy Court for ‘business rehabilitation’ just days ahead of the event

Miss Universo
Anne Jakkaphong Jakrajutatip, CEO of the company that owns Miss Universe, presents an award during last year's final ceremony in New Orleans.Gerald Herbert (AP)

The Thai company JKN Global Group, owner of the Miss Universe beauty pageant, announced on Thursday that it has filed for debt rescue due to liquidity problems. The company, led by popular businesswoman and trans activist Jakapong Anne Jakrajutatip, said in a statement that it submitted a petition for “business rehabilitation” to Thailand’s Central Bankruptcy Court on Wednesday, in order to rearrange its operations and debt. The company is requesting to extend its debt repayment period, lower its interest rates on existing debt and sell assets to settle some outstanding payments and continue its operations.

Anne Jakrajutatip, the CEO of the Thai company, was once considered the third richest trans woman in the world, according to Forbes magazine in 2020. Jakrajutatip is famous in Thailand for speaking out and established a foundation to promote transgender rights called Life Inspired For Transsexuals Foundation (LIFT). The pageant has admitted transsexual contestants since 2012. The first trans candidate to win a national pageant was Ángela Ponce, who became Miss Spain but did not make it to the Miss Universe finals in 2018.

But Jakrajutatip is not the best-known owner the pageant has had. Her company, JKN Global Group, owner of several digital channels and a production company, acquired Miss Universe in October 2022 for $20 million (€18.6 million) from IMG Worldwide LLC, based in New York. It had been sold by former U.S. president Donald Trump, who was co-owner of the rights to the pageant from 1996 until the acquisition by IMG in 2015.

Donald Trump and one of the Miss Universe contestants from the 2010 pageant.
Donald Trump and one of the Miss Universe contestants from the 2010 pageant.gtresonline

Trump’s sale of the pageant to IMG came after problems between the former president and the NBC network, when the real estate magnate made controversial comments against Mexican immigrants in 2015, when he was a Republican candidate for the U.S. presidency. NBC canceled the broadcast of the contest to choose who would be the U.S. candidate for the next Miss Universe beauty pageant. The Univisión and Televisa networks also broke ties with him. Miss Universe has been held annually since 1952, broadcast in more than 160 countries. The next pageant is scheduled to take place in El Salvador on November 18.

JKN Global announced last May that it had obtained revenues of 932 million bat (about $26.23 million) and a profit of 73.6 million bat (about $2 million) in the first quarter of 2023. However, liquidity problems in recent months have caused its shares to fall on the stock market, including almost 30% this Thursday. So far this year, its shares have depreciated more than 70%.

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