This isn't the way Robert Eaton pictured his retirement.
The former chairman of Chrysler Corp. engineered the sale of the company to Daimler-Benz AG in 1998. Now that the deal has soured, causing layoffs and plant closings, Eaton's reputation has crashed and the media are pursuing him.
He is portrayed in Detroit as the man who sold out to the Germans, pocketing a reported $70 million. Declining interviews, Eaton, who turns 61 this week, has not tried to defend himself and has stayed out of the public eye.
At the height of a media feeding frenzy two weeks ago, a reporter for a Detroit TV station tried without success to interview Eaton.
'The Problem Solvers set out to find the man some say sold out Michigan auto workers,' reporter Bill Gallagher said on the air. Gallagher is part of the Problem Solvers reporting team at WJBK-TV in Detroit.
After failing to reach Eaton at his office at the Chrysler group headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich., Gallagher flew to Florida. He hired a helicopter to shoot video of Eaton's lavish home under construction in Naples.
'Eaton's new home will take several more months to complete,' Gallagher told his audience. 'Just about the time he begins enjoying the luxury, thousands of Chrysler workers will get pink slips and worry about their futures.'
Gallagher finished his broadcast by asking Eaton to answer these questions:
'Did you really believe that this was a merger of equals?
'Did you know this crisis was coming and purposely shift the burden to the Germans?
'And what do you have to say to all those hardworking men and women who face joblessness while you live like a king?'
Two days after the company announced Jan. 29 that it would cut 26,000 jobs, the Detroit Free Press reported that Eaton was serving on jury duty in suburban Detroit.
'Eaton's civic duty,' the paper wrote, 'gave him a hiding spot from reporters who camped out at his Bloomfield Hills (Mich.) digs and hopped planes to stake out his Naples, Fla., home.'
In retirement, Eaton remains in the public eye - but not for the reasons he would choose.