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'The Simpsons' co-creator Sam Simon dies, aged 59

Writer, director and producer had been diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2012

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Sam Simon, co-creator of The Simpsons, has died at the age of 59.

The writer, director and producer passed away on Sunday (March 8) at his home in Pacific Palisades, California, his agent confirmed to the Associated Press. Simon had been diagnosed with terminal colorectal cancer in late 2012 and the disease later spread to other organs including his liver and kidneys.

After spells writing and producing for hit US sitcoms Cheers and Taxi Simon developed The Simpsons with Matt Groening and James L Brooks in 1989. As well as assembling the show's first writing team, he created the long-running characters Mr Burns and Dr Hibbert.

Simon remained a key member of the show's creative team for its first four seasons, co-writing eight episodes of the animated sitcom, before leaving in 1993 under a deal with saw him receive sizeable annual royalties from the show.

Responding to news of Simon's death, The Simpsons' executive producer Al Jean said: "He was a genius and a great humanitarian in ways public and private. I personally owe him more than can be repaid, but I will do my best to help every animal I can in his memory."

During his later life Simon worked less frequently in TV and devoted much of his time to philanthropy and advocating for animal rights. In 2002 he set up the Sam Simon Foundation dedicated to rescuing and retraining stray dogs who would otherwise have been put down. Discussing his philanthropy in 2013, Simon told The Hollywood Reporter: "The truth is, I have more money than I'm interested in spending. Everyone in my family is taken care of. And I enjoy this."

Simon was married twice, to actress Jennifer Tilly from 1984 to 1991, and then to Playboy model Jami Ferrell for three weeks in 2000. Tilly said in response to his death: "Sam was my best friend for 30 years. He was a brilliant man and a great humanitarian. I miss him terribly."

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