Sean Parker OK'd to buy stake in Peter Jackson's VFX studio

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand authorities have approved tech billionaire Sean Parker’s purchase of a one-third stake in film director Peter Jackson’s visual effects studio.

Parker needed special permission from the Overseas Investment Office because he isn’t a New Zealand resident and the Weta Digital studio is worth more than 100 million New Zealand dollars ($71 million).

In a decision published on its website this week, the office said Parker and his business associates had the relevant experience and were “of good character.” It said Weta Digital was raising money to grow its business.

Parker, who co-founded the file-sharing service Napster and is a former president of Facebook, said in June there was a huge, unmet demand for high-quality animated content.

“I have been a Weta superfan for the past two decades — I recall my sense of wonder when I first saw the character of Gollum brought to life, and later the surreal feeling of being transported to the alternate reality of Pandora," Parker said, referring to the work Weta did on Jackson's “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and James Cameron's “Avatar."

Parker's representative said Wednesday he had no further comment on the purchase.

Weta employs about 1,550 people and is based in New Zealand's capital, Wellington. Company records indicate Jackson and collaborators Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens own just over two-thirds of the company. Weta will issue new shares for Parker, diluting Jackson's stake.

Jackson could not be reached for comment.

In June, Weta appointed Parker's business associate Prem Akkaraju as chief executive and said it would begin producing original content for the first time in its 25-year history.

In 2016, Parker and Akkaraju founded a video-on-demand startup called Screening Room, which this year relaunched as SR Labs.

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