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Transgender businesswoman buys Miss Universe pageant for $20M

Anne Jakkapong Jakrajutatip, the CEO of the Thailand-based JKN Global Group, is the first woman to own the global beauty pageant organization.
Anne Jakapong Jakrajutatip, CEO of JKN Global Group, and the first woman owner of The Miss Universe Organization.
Anne Jakkapong Jakrajutatip, the CEO of the JKN Global Group, and the first woman to own the Miss Universe Organization.JKN Global Group

A Thai businesswoman and transgender advocate bought the Miss Universe Organization for $20 million, making her the first woman to own the global beauty pageant in its 71-year history, her company announced Wednesday. 

Anne Jakkapong Jakrajutatip, the CEO of the Thailand-based media company JKN Global Group, is a reality TV star in her home country, where she has appeared on local versions of “Project Runway” and “Shark Tank.” She also helped establish Life Inspired for Transsexual Foundation, a nonprofit transgender rights group.

Jakrajutatip said her company’s acquisition of the Miss Universe brand is 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,” she said in a press release. 

The Miss Universe Organization, which was co-owned by former President Donald Trump between 1996-2015, was bought by Endeavor’s IMG in 2015. The organization will continue to be led by its current CEO, Amy Emmerich, and president, Paula Shugart.

Image: 70th Miss Universe Competition
Miss Universe, Harnaaz Sandhu of India, waves after being crowned Dec. 12 in Eilat, Israel.Amir Levy / Getty Images file

Following the deal with the JKN Global Group, Endeavor President Mark Shapiro said in a statement that he’s “proud of the progress the organization has made in becoming a more inclusive and powerful platform where women can advance both their business objectives and their cause-based work.”

Emmerich agreed, saying that JKN Global will help to further grow the organization. 

“Despite having recently celebrated the organization’s legacy of more than 70 years, we are just getting started,” she said. 

The Miss Universe pageant, which started in 1952, broadcasts in 165 countries. The pageant featured its first transgender contestant in 2018, when Miss Spain, Angela Ponce, competed for the crown.

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