One of the most influential people in British comedy, agent Addison Cresswell, has died.
A hugely powerful and successful promoter, Cresswell set up talent management company Off The Kerb, and was the mastermind behind the careers of many of British comedy's best known stand-up comedians, including Lee Evans, Michael McIntyre, Alan Carr and Jack Dee.
A statement released by his company confirmed the news: "Agent, producer and charity fundraiser Addison Cresswell passed away in his sleep at home last night at the age of 53.
"Widely considered to be one of the most influential figures in the entertainment industry, his clients included Jack Dee, Lee Evans, Jonathan Ross, Alan Carr, Michael McIntyre, Dara O Briain and Sean Lock.
"He leaves behind a proud legacy in his tireless charity work, initiating and organising the annual Channel 4 Comedy Gala in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital. It was his dearest wish to raise enough to fund the opening of a brand new wing of the hospital, a goal that is now in sight.
"Addison will be fondly remembered by all whose lives he touched as a devoted mentor, a dear friend and an unforgettable character. He will be sorely missed. He is survived by his beloved wife, Shelley, his dogs Bonnie and Nessie and many, many pet fish."
It is understood that Cresswell suffered a heart attack in his sleep last night, Sunday 22nd/Monday 23rd December 2013.
Addison Cresswell began representing comedians in 1981, initially working from his kitchen table. However, Off The Kerb has now grown into one of the biggest comedy agencies in the country, with a TV production arm - Open Mike - behind many hit TV formats.
Cresswell has acted as an executive producer for many of the company's titles, including Live At The Apollo, Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow, Stand Up For The Week, Alan Carr: Chatty Man, Edinburgh Comedy Fest Live and The Last Leg, as well as scripted formats such as Jack Dee's Lead Balloon.
Cresswell was widely regarded as a shrewd businessman, and was the man who, in 2006, negotiated the controversial £18m golden handcuffs deal between Jonathan Ross (pictured) and the BBC.
In a 2008 Guardian profile, the then head of Channel 4 said of Cresswell: "You can judge how effective and how good agents are by the long-term relationships they have with their clients. In other words, is their client base always changing or not? Addison has managed to keep his clients for a very long time, which is an indication how good he is for them.
"With broadcasters, he can be volatile - but my experience with him is that he is straight, and you always have the feeling that he has his client's best interests at heart. He has an understanding of television, and is a hard negotiator but also fair."
Whilst being very well known within the comedy industry, and often described as a "larger than life character", Cresswell was also a private individual who shunned the spotlight. Few press photographs of him exist.
Many leading names have taken to Twitter this evening to express their shock and dismay at news of his death.
Simon Evans, one of Cresswell's acts, posted: "Very hard to accept that Addison Cresswell is gone. Very hard indeed. To say RIP seems almost disrespectful to his whole approach to life."
Stephen Fry said: "Oh goodness, I've just heard about Addison Cresswell a larger than life impresario manager. My deepest sympathy to all his family & friends."
Kenton Allen, boss of production company Big Talk, said: "Please can someone tell me the Addison Cresswell news is nonsense? He's been a beacon of light in my life for over 30 years." He later added: "So it's true. You truly knew you were alive if you were lucky enough to spend time with Addison. Going for a walk now..."