An unusual trimerization of aldehydes in the presence of cyanide via metal-free aerobic oxidative esterification under ambient conditions is described. Various aromatic aldehydes provided the corresponding oxidative esterification products in good to excellent yields. Mechanistic studies suggested that this reaction would proceed via a two-step sequence: cyanide-catalyzed benzoin condensation of aldehydes and subsequent aerobic oxidative esterification of aldehydes with the resultant benzoin products. The usefulness of this protocol was further demonstrated by converting the resulting trimeric products into other biologically important compounds.
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