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Hollywood talent agency buys Miss Universe from Trump

Hollywood talent agency WME/IMG on Monday said it purchased the Miss Universe Organization from Donald Trump, three days after the Republican presidential candidate said he bought out NBCUniversal's share of their beauty pageant joint venture.

Trump acquired NBCUniversal's interest as part of a settlement of his litigation against the media company, according to WME/IMG, the talent agency run by Hollywood power players Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell.

"The global reach of The Miss Universe Organization and the content opportunities presented by the pageants make this a strong, strategic addition to our portfolio," Mark Shapiro, chief content officer atWME/IMG, said in the statement.

Financial terms were not disclosed. WME/IMG declined further comment.

The deal is the latest chapter in a 12-year partnership between Trump and NBC which came undone in July, when NBC said it would not air Miss Universe after Trump's infamously disparaging comments about Mexican immigrants in launching his campaign for the White House in June.

"NBC in some ways didn't have a choice. If an organization doesn't take action, it looks like they are endorsing some of that behavior," Paul Rand, president and CEO of Chicago-based marketing and public relations agency the Zócalo Group, said.

While Trump's comments, which had him labeling some Mexican immigrants as "rapists" and criminals, did not seem to hurt his political support, Spanish-language broadcaster Univision, which serves millions of Mexican and Mexican-American views, canceled its telecast of the Miss USA pageant, and Miss Mexico withdrew from this year's Miss Universe pageant.

The backlash also prompted department-chain Macy's (M) to announce July 1 that it would no longer carry Trump brand merchandise in its stores.

"Trump is an interesting brand right now. He's clearly working politically, but he's a bit toxic with regards to any sort of product with a mass appeal and a diverse audience," Daren Brabham, an assistant professor at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism at the University of Southern California. "He's become volatile -- any sort mainstream brand would be wise to avoid him at this point."

Trump's departure from Miss Universe could pave the way for renewed partnerships between its new owners and those that broke ties with it under the business mogul, namely Univision and NBC, Brabham said. "You might see a revival in terms of Miss Universe now that it's owned by a production company [like WME/IMG] instead of Trump, who hasn't endeared himself to a lot of demographic groups, which are significant in the U.S."

Marketing expert Rand agreed. "The pageant and organization clearly was getting tarnished with some of the negative attention," he said. The pageant company is a "strong brand that ended up getting bruised by elements their owner was bringing to the table," Rand added.

The value of the Miss Universe Organization most certainly took a hit by the controversy, and likely made for a lower purchase price for WME/IMG, while Trump was able to make an exit trumpeting his business ability, the marketing consultant said.

"When I purchased the pageants many years ago, they were in serious trouble. It has been a great honor making them so successful," Trump said in the WME/IMG statement.

"You can say a number of things about Donald Trump," Rand said, "but one of them is not that he's not a bright guy."

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