Purpose – The purpose of the paper is to explore the introduction of agents, such as consultants and lawyers, when the continuation of a business relationship is threatened by conflict.Design/methodology/approach – Based on findings in a distorted business relationship in the oil industry, describes an “agent effect” on managerial decisions.Findings – The “agent effect” reduces uncertainty in the decision process by adding information, but also increases the uncertainty. This implies that their advice in fact may increase managerial uncertainty to a level of which the relationship may end up in a business divorce. The study is explorative and based on a single case study design where written communication between the battling parties, public media and court writs are investigated. Primary and secondary data sources are combined.Research limitations/implications – Although the paper's strength lies in it being an in-depth analysis of a single case, this approach is also a limitation when claiming new knowledge.Practical implications – Future research should test the existence of “agent effect”, based on a quantitative, cross-sectional survey design to secure a more general validity. The paper suggests a general carefulness when bringing in external agents into an inter-organizational dispute, unless the agents are representing both parties as mediators.Originality/value – The challenge of managing conflict and divorce in a business-to-business context has been well studied before, but the role of external agents has not, until now, been explored. This study fills this gap.