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In the 2008 Iron Man movie, when Tony Stark returns from captivity he holds a press conference during which he states that Stark Enterprises will no longer be a weapons manufacturer. Initially this would obviously be stone walled by Obadiah Stane, but once he was dead Tony would have had greater opportunity to maneuver the company in the direction he wanted. Presumably Tony would have continued to push in the direction of no longer selling weapons.

Even assuming that Tony was unwilling or unable to stop all weapons manufacturing over night, adjusting internal production to one or more products or services that could come close to matching the profit flow of weapons sales and Defense contracts would seem a near impossible task. The only product I could see coming close to offsetting these losses would be the miniaturized Arc Reactor, but there did not seem to be any indication that these were being sold (Ivan Vanko having a similar reactor in Iron Man 2 was a surprise to Tony).

With all of that, and assuming a large portion of Tony's personal wealth was tied up in Stark Enterprises, how did Stark Enterprises manage to maintain a cash flow sufficient enough that Tony was able to continue funding construction and development of the Iron Man platform (on behalf of Stark Enterprises?), especially while launching a year long technology expo in Iron Man 2?

I am primarily interested in answers that are linked to the movies (as I am unfamiliar with the comic and cartoon lore), however, a canon answer from alternate media is welcome.

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    While it was never stated in the films, I always thought that Tony would still be open to providing non-weapon protective/defensive technologies to the Pentagon. – Blazemonger Apr 19 '12 at 15:41
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    The answer in just one word: "Motherlode" – user5928 Apr 20 '12 at 9:08
  • As @Blazemonger said, it's referenced that Stark Industries outfitted Shield helicarriers in Captain America 2 and I believe another movie. – Stormie Jul 11 '17 at 10:47
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There are a few implied answers in the movies, and more stated in comics in the past:

  • Stark refuses to sell weapons or Iron Man tech, but he likely still manufactures vehicles and armour. (In the comics, he's moved in and out of other military tech repeatedly over the years.) He still seems to be working on a certain red-white-and-blue shield, for a start.

  • Stark Industries has diversified heavily, particularly in commercial tech and computing. He's apparently diversified enough to be worth hosting an Expo, for a start. (Never mind the Iron Man weapons tech; consider how good the HUD is, not to mention his lab's true-3D CAD desktop.) Stark almost certainly makes a killing in the smartphone and domestic display markets - note the mini-tablet he uses to hack the presentation at the start of the second movie.

  • This broader portfolio is not a new phenomenon; being a weapons contractor didn't stop Howard Stark from running a general civilian expo. (We know from Captain America that he was working on a civilian flying car as early as WWII, although apparently the repulsor tech was too far ahead of it's time to be commercially viable at that point.)

  • Given his sponsorship of a racing team, it's likely that the military-vehicle production capability has been diversified into domestic and industrial engine and vehicle markets. (In the comics his newest company, Stark Resilient, was founded on alternate cleaner-energy engine designs.)

  • The key Iron Man tech that Stark won't sell is the power source (in the movies), and the repulsors (in both movies and comics). He might still use both to create more efficient or effective Stark production lines, for creating things he is willing to sell. An arc reactor/repulsor based factory would have one hell of a competitive advantage.

  • In the comics it's been repeatedly stated that giving up weapons does badly impact profits. During one past run when Stark was refusing to deal in defence contracts at all, it was clear that Stark profits - and his connections in government - were badly hurt. But Stark's so big and so rich that it's not fatal.

  • Yes, he does use technology other than the Arc reactor elsewhere. I believe in the first film, the Jericho was powered by arc repulsors, like those in the suits... – Stark07 Jul 28 '15 at 7:02
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My answer is going to be more based directly off the movies than speculation. Iron Man did loose a lot of money and company valuation from dropping out of the defense industry - but out of his experience in the Middle East a whole new energy business was born. The Arc Reactor technology is/was Stark Industries' biggest new bet. Arc Reactor technology is used in buildings (Stark Tower in NYC) among many other industries. The MCU doesn't reveal in detail when/how Stark monetises off the Arc Reactors but we can assume (based on the buzz about it in the movie universe) that he does. Additionally we find out Tony Stark gets other contracts related to his energy business/avenging. He works in partnership with the Federal government to remove alien artifacts from NYC (Dept of Damage Control, which I am sure is a hefty contract) and SHIELD pays him to give a cleaner energy design for the second generation of Heli-carriers. The movies also reveal that Stark Industries make health devices (Iron Man 2 Tony checks his own blood pressure) and there is quite a bit of experimental technology in holographic displays, AI (Jarvis, Friday) and mobile computing.

One huge aspect everyone forgets about is the Iron Man suits. The Iron Man suits become a huge item for the press. On its own the suits may not produce defense contracts, but a huge amount of merchandise and IP (maybe all the Iron Man helmets we see in MCU are licensed from Stark Industries). The suit also generates giant exposure for the Arc Reactor and other technologies. Tony Stark's role as a world Avenger also generates him even more exposure- perhaps companies hire him as a consultant or he gets paid to speak at conferences (we see several things like that in the McU). I also bet the government may fund the Avengers to some degree (based on the UN taking jurisdiction) and indirectly Stark Industries who has the legal oversight over the Avengers.

  • Your answer appears to be just speculation. You even admit it - "The MCU doesn't reveal in detail when/how Stark monetises off the Arc Reactors but we can assume (based on the buzz about it in the movie universe) that he does." – Gallifreyan Jul 10 '17 at 20:04
  • Hmm, disagree here @Gallifreyan. I think the logic is pretty sound. It is also in line with the accepted answer – Edlothiad Jul 10 '17 at 20:11
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    “Iron Man 2 Tony checks his own blood pressure” — blood toxicity. – Paul D. Waite Jul 10 '17 at 20:30

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