Sam Simon made a fortune as the co-creator of “The Simpsons” and has credits on “Anger Management” and “The Drew Carey Show.” Since “The Simpsons” is one of the most syndicated television shows ever, Simon has amassed a wildly large fortune — so large he doesn’t even know what his net worth actually is.
Earlier this year, Simon was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer, and that led to him making some hard decisions. He’s not married and doesn’t have children, so after making sure that everyone in his family was taken care of, Simon decided to donate everything to charity. He’s already created the Sam Simon Foundation, which provides direct food aid to starving people and animals. And he regularly gives to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, PETA, and Save the Children.
And now in his final months, Simon has launched a very special personal project.
With the help of PETA head Ingrid Newkirk, he created a new plan:
“When I was sick, I got to summon people to my hospital room. Ingrid and I got this fun idea. I started to buy these zoos and circuses in December. I just wanted to have some days where I get to see animals walk in grass for the first time. Through PETA, we rescue animals in roadside zoos and circuses. 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.”
Simon is quietly dedicated to giving, and he wants to do it in an intelligent fashion:
“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. You know, I’m not married, and I don’t have kids. I had an emergency operation when I was septic, and I really did come very close to dying. My colon cancer perforated my colon. When I woke up in the hospital, even though I did have a will, it did become that much more important to me to set this stuff up for the future. And the Rockefeller Foundation has consultants [Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors] who have been amazing. We found fantastic trustees. It’s something that will be living after I’m gone.”
Simon brings up a vital point: A lot of giving in high-end circles contributes more to the industry of charity than to the charity itself. It’s self-congratulatory and showy, and oriented around the artifice of giving, but does relatively little to help people and animals in need. To that end, Simon has made it a point to extensively vet the places he donates to and supports. When asked why he loves to donate, Simon said, “One thing is, I get pleasure from it. I love it. I don’t feel like it is an obligation. 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.”