Sam Simon, an Emmy Award-winning writer and producer who played an important role in the development of the hit animated television show The Simpsons, has died at the age of 59.
Simon’s charitable foundation announced his passing with a Facebook (FB) post on Monday afternoon. Simon had been diagnosed with terminal colon cancer in 2012.
Simon worked with Simpsons creator Matt Groening and fellow producer James L. Brooks to adapt The Simpsons, which started as a series of animated comedy sketches appearing on The Tracey Ullman Show, into a standalone primetime series that premiered in 1989. It quickly became a success, and eventually the longest-running primetime television series in American history.
Simon is credited with playing an integral role in the early development of the show, serving as a writer for several early episodes and hiring the first lineup of staff writers — a highly-regarded group of comedians that included longtime contributors such as Al Jean, George Meyer, John Swartzwelder and Jon Vitti.
Simon actually left the show after just four seasons, but he signed a deal upon exiting that guaranteed him an executive producer credit on all subsequent episodes as well as a share of the show’s profits. That agreement proved to be a lucrative one for Simon, who was able to retire from show business before he turned 40 while reportedly raking in tens of millions of dollars a year from The Simpsons, which is currently in its 26th season on air.
The Simpsons is regarded as one of the most valuable television franchises ever, including a $750 million cable syndication deal with parent 21st Century Fox’s (FOX) FX Networks in 2013. Not long after that deal was signed, Variety reported that the television franchise’s merchandise, which makes up a large chunk of Fox’s consumer products business, had made more than $4.6 billion in revenue over the first quarter-century of the show’s run.
As The Hollywood Reporter noted Monday, Simon donated quite a bit of his Hollywood earnings to charities, particularly those dealing with the welfare of animals. The Sam Simon Foundation is dedicated to rescuing stray dogs.
Simon’s other credits include writing and producing for the television series Cheers, Taxi and The Drew Carey Show, among several others.