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Transgender Thai media mogul buys Miss Universe pageant

A Thai media mogul and transgender rights campaigner has bought the firm that runs Miss Universe pageants for $20 million, according to a company announcement.

Anne Jakapong Jakrajutatip, who also hosts the local edition of "Project Runway," becomes the first woman to own the beauty pageant organisation outright, according to an announcement Wednesday by the JKN Global Group, of which she is chief executive.

For much of its 70-year history, Miss Universe — previously owned by former US president Donald Trump — has been criticised as buttressing outmoded ideas of femininity.

Jakapong said in a statement that the acquisition was an opportunity to "evolve the brand," while telling reporters she hoped it would boost Thailand's image abroad.

"I hope that this will serve as soft power for Thailand, and bring more tourists to our country," she said in Bangkok.

She characterised the purchase from Endeavor's IMG as a "strong, strategic addition" to her company's portfolio.

In a Facebook post, Jakapong thanked fans of the pageant for their love and support.

"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," she said in a statement.

Miss Universe Organisation chief executive Amy Emmerich and president Paula Shugart will stay on in their roles.

The next Miss Universe pageant is scheduled for the US city of New Orleans next January, where Celeste Cortesi will represent the Philippines.

The contest is broadcast in 165 countries.

Meanwhile, Miss Universe Philippines also shared the news on social media, saying it is still “committed to the vision and plans of the Miss Universe Organization under its new owner.”

JKN Global Group, which also owns Miss USA and Miss Teen USA, has distribution rights for foreign documentaries, TV dramas and reality television shows in Thailand.

Shares in JKN Global Group bounced almost 15 per cent following the announcement.

The announcement of the acquisition came shortly after Miss Grand International, another pageant owned by Thai Nawat Itsaragrisil, came under fire for its cryptic "MU" post on Instagram. — Agence France-Presse, with reports from Franchesca Viernes/GMA