The cause and location of his death were not immediately disclosed.
"Gil was our colleague, our friend and a former governor of the academy," Tom Sherak, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, said in a statement Tuesday. "He was a consummate professional who gave the academy and the world some of the most memorable moments in Oscar history. His passing is a tremendous loss to the entertainment industry, and our thoughts go out to his family."
Cates also served three consecutive terms as a governor of the academy's directors branch from 1984 to 1993. He returned to the board for another term beginning in 2002, and held the post of vice president from 2003 to 2005.
Cates was elected to the National Board of the Directors Guild of America in 1975 and served as president from 1983-1987 and as secretary-treasurer from 1997 until his death. He led the negotiations committee for the guild's 2002, 2005, 2008 and 2011 contract negotiations and served on the Western Directors Council for more than 20 years.
DGA President Taylor Hackford applauded Cates' "vision and influence on the organization and our industry."
"There was no greater champion of the creative and economic rights of directors and their teams and no truer friend to the membership, board and staff of the DGA," Hackford said in a statement. "For more than 50 years, Gil has served the guild -- as president, as secretary-treasurer, as negotiations chair. It's impossible to think of a single issue debated, program launched or battle fought on behalf of us all that didn't have his special touch in its crafting."
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers remembered Cates as "a true leader, a formidable negotiator and the strongest of advocates for the Directors Guild of America and its members."
"As the four-time chair of the DGA Negotiating Committee, Gil was able to forge innovative compromises and resolve thorny problems in a manner that found acceptance throughout the industry. We are saddened by his loss and our thoughts go out to his family at this difficult time," AMPTP said in a statement.
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