Thai transgender businesswoman buys Miss Universe Organisation for $20 million

JKN chief executive Anne Jakapong Jakrajutatip (JKN Global Group)
JKN chief executive Anne Jakapong Jakrajutatip (JKN Global Group)

A Thai transgender businesswoman has bought the Miss Universe Organisation, saying she hopes to promote diversity and help “evolve the brand for the next generation”.

JKN, a Thai-owned media and content conglomerate, announced on Wednesday it had acquired the organisation from previous owner IMG for $20 million (£17.1 million).

The acquisition sees JKN chief executive Anne Jakapong Jakrajutatip, who has starred in the Thai versions of Project Runway and Shark Tank, become the first woman to own the Miss Universe Organization in its 71-year history.

The billionaire businesswoman and mother-of-two confirmed the purchase on her Instagram page, writing: “Yes, I own them all...Yes, I am the only owner. 10 per cent ...Yes, finally this universe belongs to us.”

In a statement, she said: “We are incredibly honored to be acquiring the Miss Universe Organisation and working with its visionary leadership team.

“The global reach of the organisation, its relationships with global partners and brands, and its wealth of content, licensing and merchandising opportunities make this a strong, strategic addition to our portfolio.

“We seek not only to continue its legacy of providing a platform to passionate individuals from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and traditions, but also to evolve the brand for the next generation.”

The Miss Universe Organisation’s chief executive, Amy Emmerich, and president, Paula Shugart, said: “We are excited to continue the evolution of the Miss Universe Organisation with JKN. Our relationships with global partners and brands have never been stronger; and our progressive approach continues to position us at the forefront of our industry.

“We would like to thank IMG for providing us a foundation to realise our aspirations for the brand.”

It says it is striving for greater “inclusivity”, including “recent rule changes to create greater competitor eligibility”, and with Ms Jakrajutatip becoming the first woman owner of the organisation.

The pageant has allowed trans competitors to enter since 2013. In 2018, Angela Ponce — then Miss Spain — made history as she represented her country as Miss Universe’s first transgender contestant.

This year, it changed its rules to allow married women and mothers to compete in the 2023 pageant.