Wētā FX's chief executive Prem Akkaraju steps down

Kristin Hall
Source: 1News

The chief executive of Wellington-based visual effects studio Wētā FX, formerly known as Wētā Digital, has left the company.

Former Wētā FX CEO Prem Akkaraju.

Prem Akkaraju joined Wētā Digital in 2020, and was based in Los Angeles for most of his tenure.

In a statement Wētā FX said it was "shifting the responsibilities of its executive team".

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"It has become clear the company would benefit from New Zealand-based leadership to manage its almost two thousand member crew. Accordingly, LA-based, Prem Akkaraju is no longer Worldwide CEO. Mr Akkaraju remains a shareholder and director of Wētā FX," the statement says.

A Wētā FX spokesperson said the departure has nothing to do with a damning 2020 culture review of Wētā Digital, sparked by a 1News investigation.

The review by Maria Dean QC found major issues with bullying, sexual harassment, management processes and how complaints were handled at Wētā Digital.

She made 17 recommendations including “a top-to-bottom” overhaul of the company’s workplace culture and a restructure of the executive management team, HR department and the wider organisation.

In November last year Wētā Digital sold its tools, technology, and engineering talent to tech firm Unity. It meant 275 engineering crew became Unity employees but were contracted back to the company, which changed its name from Wētā Digital to Wētā FX.

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Filmmaker and Wētā FX owner Sir Peter Jackson said: "Prem was instrumental in establishing Wētā's partnership with Unity and we are incredibly grateful to him for that. Unity are world leaders in delivering tech and we are looking forward to continuing to work with them to fulfil our shared vision of empowering artists across the globe to take their work to the next level.”