High issue salience and controversy negatively affect the probability of success of multilateral negotiations. In such a context, Chairpersons acquire an important role in agenda management and brokerage among the bargaining partners. If they perform these functions neutrally and impartially, Chairs increase their effectiveness and emerge as key determinants of negotiation success. However, Chairs as agents often seek some degree of autonomy to pursue their own interests. We expect high issue salience and controversy to create a non-conducive environment for Chairs to follow their own agenda, due to greater principals’ sensitivity, thus leading any such autonomy-seeking attempt to failure. We discuss four case studies of negotiations taken from the un setting, in which Chairs sought autonomy in a highly polarized and controversial bargaining environment. Whereas in the first two cases, the Chairs’ attempts ended in failure confirming our basic hypothesis, in the latter two cases the Chairs were successful.