The owner of Miss Universe, JKN Global Group, has confirmed that next week’s pageant will go ahead, despite the Thai firm filing for bankruptcy.
The media distribution company, which bought the Miss Universe Organization for $20 million in 2022, announced on Thursday that it had submitted a petition for “business rehabilitation” that was accepted by Thailand’s bankruptcy court.
In a statement published on its website, JKN said providing a “top notch experience” to Miss Universe fans “will remain a top priority” ahead of next Saturday’s finale. The firm expressed confidence that its new financial arrangements will “support all of the company’s business operations, including Miss Universe.”
Run by Anne Jakkaphong Jakrajutatip, a transgender rights advocate and the star of Thai versions of reality shows such as “Project Runway,” JKN said last year that it planned to grow the Miss Universe Organization by expanding in Asia and releasing branded merchandise.
Declaring bankruptcy does not necessarily mean a company is about to go out of business. Many major firms have used bankruptcy filings as a tool to shed debt and costs they can no longer afford.
JKN, which had raised money through bonds to buy Miss Universe, missed a loan repayment deadline of around $12 million that was due September 1. In its filing, the company said it planned to restructure its debt and extend the repayment period to overcome what it called a “liquidity problem.”
In a press conference at the time, Jakkaphong said market conditions, including high inflation, made it difficult for the firm to roll over its debt.
Jakkaphong, who has been outspoken about her experiences as a trans woman, took over Miss Universe — one of the world’s most-watched beauty pageants — as it reckoned with growing calls for greater diversity and inclusivity.
This year’s pageant will feature two trans women for the first time: Marina Machete, a 23-year-old flight attendant who was crowned Miss Portugal last month, and Rikkie Kollé, who became the first transgender winner of Miss Netherlands in July.
“Trans women are women, full stop,” the Miss Universe Organization told CNN last month, following Miss Portugal’s crowning. “We are here to celebrate women, full stop. This has been true for more than a decade, and we’re proud to have made this change very early on, compared to other programs.”
If either candidate wins, they will become the first trans woman to wear the tiara.
In 2018, Spain’s Ángela Ponce was the pageant’s first trans contestant, but did not advance to the finals.
Miss Universe, which has been running since 1952, scores contestants based on personal statements, in-depth interviews, and evening gown and swimwear competitions.
This year’s final in El Salvador will see nearly 90 women from around the world compete for the crown.
JKN Global Group did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
CNN’s Kocha Olarn contributed to this report from Bangkok.