How 'Simpsons' Co-Creator With Terminal Cancer Diagnosis Plans To Give Away Vast TV Fortune
Sam Simon, the co-creator of The Simpsons, has a lot of money but he doesn't have a lot of time.The 58-year-old television writer-producer was diagnosed with colon cancer this year, and he told Marc Maron in May that doctors only gave him three to six months to live. Simon, who became a showrunner for Taxi, maintains an executive producer credit on The Simpsons and directed The Drew Carey Show, spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about how he plans to spend his vast TV fortune in the remaining months of his life.
Simon has no children, but he says he's taken care of his family financially. Now he's focusing on giving the rest away: "One thing is, I get pleasure from it. I love it. I don't feel like it is an obligation."
Simon isn't new to the world of philanthropy—he's been an avid supporter of animal rights groups including PETA, Save the Children and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. He also founded the Sam Simon Foundation in 2002 that rescues strays and feeds hungry people—although he insists on feeding them with cruelty-free vegan food. His foundation created a canine haven that rescues dogs from shelters and trains them as companions for the deaf. And it also supports a mobile clinic that goes into neighborhood and offers free surgeries for pets (as long as the surgeries aren't too complicated). He told The Hollywood Reporter, "The Sam Simon Foundation is going to be very well endowed, and there's a lot of stuff I want them to do."
Simon has hired consultants from the Rockefeller Foundation and trustees that he says will continue doing the work that he's passionate about long after he's gone.
During his years of giving, Simon tried to focus on giving to charities that do direct good:
One of the things about animal rights, which is not the only thing that I care about in this world, is that your money can bring success. I see results. There is stuff happening, really good stuff, every week. I'm not sure you get that with a lot of disease charities. If you were donating to environmental causes for the past 20 years, do you think your money is doing anything? Because I don't, and I used to support some conservationist stuff -- Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund. They're treading water. Climate change is a big part of their problem. The environment has been destroyed, basically.
He complains that philanthropists in Hollywood and New York sometimes lose sight of what they're actually doing: "...I don't think the spirit of Hollywood is such a spirit of generosity. I think people really begrudge giving. In New York, it's like that. A lot of charities spend a million dollars on a fundraiser to make $15,000. It's a social swirl. They do some great stuff and then -- it's called mission drift. It becomes more about the parties."Simon also started buying zoos and circuses in December in coordination with PETA so that he could free the animals in those roadside shows: "They are some of the most abused animals in the country. Freeing those animals, that's something I'm not sure I would do if it weren't for the cancer."