Miss Universe's new parent company was meant to revive the struggling pageant, but now its facing its own financial woes

R'Bonney Gabriel Miss Universe
The pageant was purchased by JKN Global Group in 2022.TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images
  • Miss Universe's owner filed a petition for "business rehabilitation" following financial struggles.

  • JKN Global Group said in a statement that the pageant will go forward as planned on November 18.

  • The filing is just the latest drama to rack the Miss Universe organization.

The Miss Universe organization hit another bump in the road after a year of controversy.

On Thursday, the Thai bankruptcy court accepted a petition for "business rehabilitation" from JKN Global Group, the company that bought the Miss Universe organization for $20 million in October 2022, as JKN shared in a letter to the president of the stock exchange of Thailand.

Anne Jakkaphong Jakrajutatip heads JKN Global Group, making her the first woman to own Miss Universe following the purchase.

The news comes just days before the 72nd annual Miss Universe pageant is set to take place in El Salvador on November 18.

Miss Universe president Anne Jakrajutatip
Anne Jakkaphong Jakrajutatip during the Miss Universe Extravaganza in November 2022.LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP via Getty Images

In a statement shared on its website, JKN said the pageant will move forward as planned despite the company's financial issues.

"In response to the recent news, JKN Global Group has recently announced its strategic corporate financial management plan to cope with the current financial situation," the statement said. "We are confident that the new plan will support all of the company's business operations, including Miss Universe."

"We confirm that Miss Universe 2023 will be held in El Salvador on 18 November 2023, where a top-notch experience provided to our fans will remain our top priority," it went on to say. "We reaffirm that the legacy of Miss Universe will be carried on by JKN Global Group as envisioned from the beginning."

In September, JKN missed a payment on a multimillion-dollar loan, saying in a letter to the stock-exchange president on August 31 that "the financial liquidity management of the company is not in line with the expected forecast." The company said it intends to restructure its debt under its "business rehabilitation" agreement in an additional letter shared on Thursday.

JKN's initial plan includes extending the period it has to pay off its debt, waiving interest rates, finding new investors for additional support, and selling off defunct areas of the company, according to the same letter.

Representatives for the Miss Universe organization and JKN Global Group did not respond to Insider's request for comment sent outside of regular business hours on Friday.

The CEO intended to revive a struggling Miss Universe organization

Jakrajutatip's purchase of Miss Universe felt like a pivotal moment for a pageant that has struggled to maintain relevance in the modern world, with the organization previously facing criticism when it was owned by Donald Trump.

"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," Jakrajutatip previously said of Miss Universe in an October 2022 statement shared with Insider.

The organization has already ushered in modern changes since Jakrajutatip took over as the owner; for example, married women and mothers are now allowed to compete in the pageant.

But she also bought Miss Universe when the organization was embroiled in scandal.

Miss Universe R'Bonney Gabriel waves after being crowned Miss Universe on January 14, 2023.
Miss Universe R'Bonney Gabriel waves after being crowned on January 14, 2023.Jason Kempin / Staff / Getty Images

After R'Bonney Gabriel won the Miss USA pageant in October 2022, competitors alleged the pageant had been rigged in her favor.

Miss USA feeds into the Miss Universe pageant — and Gabriel went on to win the 2022 Miss Universe competition — so the organization launched a third-party investigation into the allegations in October 2022 and temporarily suspended the then-president of the Miss USA organization Crystle Stewart.

Later that same month, it became public that Stewart's then-husband, Max Sebrechts, had stepped down as vice president of the organization in January 2022 after contestants alleged he had sexually harassed them. Sebrechts denied the allegations to Insider at the time, and a source close to Stewart told Insider that the former Miss USA president and Sebrecht had separated.

In a statement released on August 1, the Miss Universe Organization said it found no evidence to suggest the 2022 Miss USA pageant was rigged and that its investigation was closed, but it also shared that Stewart would no longer be president.

Jakrajutatip has remained committed to transforming the Miss Universe pageant's image, saying in an additional statement shared on her Instagram on Thursday that the organization is her top priority.

"I always put The Miss Universe Organization as my first priority in life," she said in the caption of the post. "No matter how joyful or painful it's gonna be…. Our universe must go on, must be great and must stay on top as the legendary Beauty Olympics in the World! I will sacrifice and do everything for the great success of OUR UNIVERSE!"

Eighty-four women from all over the world will compete for the Miss Universe title in this year's pageant.

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