Thai business mogul and trans activist buys Miss Universe Organization

IMG has sold the Miss Universe Organization (MUO), which oversees the annual pageant, to the company of Thai transgender business mogul Anne Jakapong Jakrajutatip. It is the first time a woman has owned the organization in its 71-year-history.

Jakrajutatip’s Thailand-based media group, JKN Global Media Public Company Limited, purchased MUO for $20 million, according to The Associated Press.

The businesswoman, who is also a reality TV star in Thailand, said she is pleased to carry on the legacy of the Miss Universe Organization, calling it a “strong, strategic addition to our portfolio.”

“We are incredibly honored to be acquiring The Miss Universe Organization and working with its visionary leadership team,” Jakrajutatip said in a statement announcing the acquisition. “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.”

Amy Emmerich and Paula Shugart, the MUO’s current CEO and president, will continue to hold those roles under the new management, the statement said.

Emmerich said both executives look forward to building upon the Miss Universe organization through this new purchase.

“Paula and I see tremendous opportunity with JKN to create further growth for this organization on the global stage and women around the world,” Emmerich said in the statement. “Despite having recently celebrated the organization’s legacy of more than 70 years, we are just getting started.”

Both IMG and JKN Global Media have emphasized the importance of global partnerships, which can help create an environment that is inclusive of all individuals.

“We’re equally 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,” said Mark Shapiro, president of Endeavor — the parent company of IMG.

In addition to her business dealings, Jakrajutatip is also an advocate for transgender rights, and helped found the nonprofit Life Inspired for Transsexual Foundation.

The MUO was previously co-owned by former President Donald Trump from 1996 to 2015, before it was sold to IMG.

The organization held its first ever Miss Universe pageant in 1952, which now airs annually in 165 countries, according to IMG. In the press release, IMG called the competition “the most-watched female-focused event in the world.” 

Angela Ponce of Spain made history in 2018 as the first openly transgender person to compete in the Miss Universe pageant.

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