The JKN Global Group, the Thai business conglomerate that owns and operates the Miss Universe Pageant, has filed for bankruptcy just days before the 2023 competition. The upcoming pageant, scheduled for November 18 in El Salvador, will continue despite the insolvency of its backer, advancing company owner and transgender activist Jakkaphong “Anne” Jakrajutatip’s goal of hosting the first “gender-inclusive” show open to biological males.
When JKN Global Group acquired the Miss Universe organization (along with Miss USA and Miss Teen USA) for $20,000,000 in 2022, CEO Anne Jakrajutatip—a biological male who identifies as a woman—celebrated the purchase as “a strong, strategic addition to our portfolio.” At a pageant event in January of this year, Jakrajutatip declared that the contest’s new management was going to usher in an era of “global women’s empowerment.”
“Welcome to the Miss Universe Organization,” he told the cheering audience. “From now on is going to be ran by women, owned by a trans woman, for all women, for all women really around the world to celebrate the power of feminism.”
In the intervening months, the Miss Universe contest and its subsidiary competitions have campaigned for inclusion and equality, expanding the definition of womanhood to accommodate transgender individuals as well.
“We will adopt a new concept, ‘One Universe,’ in which opportunities to participate in the competition will be given also to trans women and married women, and fairness in the contest judging will be ensured,” Jakrajutatip said after the purchase. “This will be the world’s first beauty contest with real gender equality and inclusion.”
In keeping with these new inclusivity standards, the Miss Universe Pageant in El Salvador later this week will feature two transgender contestants: Marina Machete, competing as Miss Portugal, and Rikkie Valerie Kolle, competing as Miss Netherlands.
However, while JKN Global Group is still promising to make Saturday’s pageant a “top notch experience,” the new and improved Miss Universe franchise seems to be on shaky ground. Public documents sent to the Stock Exchange of Thailand reveal that the company has “filed a petition for business rehabilitation [Thailand’s term for bankruptcy] with the Central Bankruptcy Court under the Bankruptcy Act B.E. 2483 (1940).”
Additionally, the company’s stock has reportedly fallen by more than 80 percent in the last year, and it missed a $12 million debt repayment due September 1.
The Miss Universe organization has not commented publicly on the bankruptcy filings, and the JKN Global Group has expressed confidence that a new business plan will be able to reverse these trends.