Thai Owner of Miss Universe Sells 50% Stake to Mexican Investor Amid Bankruptcy Proceedings

The Miss Universe pageant has faced tumultuous times since being acquired by Thai billionaire Anne Jakrajutatip’s JKN Global Group in October 2022.However, international media outlets have reported allegations of fraudulent activities against JKN Global Group.

Within just a year of taking over Miss Universe, the company has filed for bankruptcy. In November 2023, a lawsuit was filed against JKN Group PCL (JKN), accusing it of embezzlement. The lawsuit alleges that JKN disseminated false information about the Miss Universe Coin (MU Coin) project, misleading the public by presenting it as a cryptocurrency venture in which JKN, the company that owned the rights to Miss Universe, had no involvement.

Ownership of the Miss Universe Organization (MUO) has changed hands several times since Donald Trump sold the business to IMG. Subsequently, IMG sold it to the Endeavor Group, and finally, Endeavor sold it to JKN Group of Thailand.Miss Universe, once envisioned as the crown jewel of JKN Group’s business portfolio, faced significant challenges after management shifted geographically to Thailand. This transition stirred a clash of management styles, leading to the departure of many experienced staff members who had effectively operated the organization for years. As if internal team troubles weren’t enough, JKN Group’s woes deepened as it filed for bankruptcy amidst a lawsuit filed by Thailand-based TCJ Social Media Group, seeking 1 Billion Thai Baht in damages.Amidst the backdrop of bankruptcy and legal battles, reports emerged that JKN Group had sold 50% of Miss Universe ownership to Legacy Holdings Group of Mexico, owned by Raul Rocha Cantu, himself embroiled in controversy. According to a Washington Post report, Rocha Cantu owns a casino where 52 people tragically perished in an arson attack, suspected to be carried out by members of the Los Zetas cartel, shaking the country to its core.

In the last few days, the world of beauty pageants has been abuzz following former Miss Universe president Paula Shugart’s public statement on Instagram calling out Anne Jakrajutatip of JKN Global Group.Paula, who parted ways with Miss Universe after serving as president for 23 years stated, “Since announcing my resignation in November of 2023, I have sought to stay out of the spotlight, electing not to comment on any of the changes within the Miss Universe Organization, seeking only to quietly help the brand and its stakeholders, when requested, with my historical knowledge and guidance. However, recent false and outrageous comments made by Miss Universe owner Anne Jakrajutatip impugning my character have compelled me to break my silence.” She continued, “Normally, I would choose to ignore such assertions but, by suggesting that I am corrupt and took money ‘under the table’ to secure placements in Miss Universe competitions, Jakrajutatip not only defames me, but she also discredits the women who have won the Miss Universe crown by implying their titles were ‘bought’ and not earned by merit. I cannot abide by such dangerous and reckless assertions, which degrade the Miss Universe brand and its titleholders.”

Paula mentioned that she is contemplating legal action in Thailand against Anne who is also a transexual activist. “However, given that my complaint will be just one of many legal actions currently facing the owner of JKN, it is imperative for the Miss Universe brand and its legacy that I immediately speak the truth and condemn these words before taking any action in Thai courts and I am reserving all rights to claim for damages. I have no intention or need to engage in drama on social media and I will not do so. Anyone who knows me knows the truth and what I stand for. I will let my years of work with some truly incredible women speak for itself” Paula is often credited for bringing inclusivity within Miss Universe. She was also instrumental in introducing the groundbreaking rule of transgender participation in Miss Universe pageant. Furthermore, recent changes under her guidance allowed contestants who are married or have children to compete in Miss Universe. Paula’s statement received support from other former Miss Universe titleholders such as Miss Universe 1991 Lupita Jones, Miss Universe 2010 Ximena Navarrete, and Universe 2016 Iris Mittenaer.

A spokesperson for Miss India Organisation has reacted to the recent changes and said, “We believe in the power of Miss Universe and the fact that it has been a well-reputed and respected Pageant. However, given the background of uncertainty wherein the owner JKN Group is under investigation owing to the lawsuit, plus lack of transparency on the business engagements with long standing partners, we have abstained this year from competitive pitching for the license. We are committed to the value system which MUO has always upheld and we hope JKN Group is able to come out as winners through this crisis and upholds the credibility and repute of Miss Universe and we will be the first pitch and win the license again for India.”

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