Legendary Oscar Producer Dead at 77

11/1/2011 9:25 AM PDT

Legendary Oscar Producer Gilbert Cates Dies -- Dead at 77

Legendary Academy Awards producer Gilbert Cates has died ... TMZ has learned.

Cates was known as THE go-to producer for the Oscars -- putting together a record 14 shows over 18 years, between 1990 and 2008 ... more than any other Academy Awards producer in history.

He was the uncle of actress Phoebe Cates.

Sources tell TMZ, Gilbert's body was discovered last night in a parking lot at UCLA. Emergency teams responded to a call on the campus around 5:50PM, but were unable to revive Cates.

The L.A. County coroner is investigating the cause of death. Cates underwent heart surgery earlier this month.

He was 77.