Things in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are so much simpler for Stark Industries. For example, the company is founded in 1940 by Howard Stark, instead of being around for nearly 200 years. Similar to the comics, Howard plays a role in forming S.H.I.E.L.D., and he’s also later murdered. But instead of being killed by a Roxxon Oil assassin like he was in the comics, he’s taken out by the HYDRA-controlled Winter Soldier in 1991.
Tony (Robert Downey Jr.) is still in college when his dad is murdered, but he soon takes over the company. Ever the arrogant playboy, Tony is bored with the day-to-day details of running a gigantic corporation. By the time we see Tony for the first time in 2008’s Iron Man, he’s almost 40 years old but still living that carefree lifestyle.
At this time, Stark Industries is selling serious weapons to the military, and since he’s preoccupied with his own celebrity, Tony leaves all the business details to Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), who served as interim CEO until Tony turned 21. Obadiah is a father figure for Tony, and in many ways, he’s much warmer to Tony than Howard was. Of course, this is all an act for Obadiah, as Tony is only as useful to him as his ideas. But this duplicitous relationship is what eventually gives birth to Iron Man.
Always a showman, Tony goes off to the desert to display his newest weapons to the military. And of course, he’s kidnapped by a terrorist organization called the Ten Rings. While in captivity, he sees the terrorists using weapons purchased from Stark Industries, and this totally reshapes the billionaire’s worldview. Tony eventually builds an Iron Man prototype and escapes, but after witnessing the destruction committed via his creations, Tony shuts down all weapons sales at his company.
Needless to say, this does not go over well with Stane. Not only is this guy a super greedy businessman, he’s also the dude who hired the Ten Rings to kill Tony in the first place, as he resents Stark’s position as CEO. Eventually, this leads to a big robo-battle between Iron Man and Iron Monger, and when Stane is finally defeated, it’s Tony alone who’s calling the shots … for a little while.