Benzylic carboxylates were found to react with Pd(0) complexes bearing tertiary phosphines to give benzylpalladium(II) carboxylate complexes with cleavage of the benzyl-oxygen bond. The benzylpalladium complexes having the trifluoroacetato ligand react with olefins such as ethyl acrylate to give olefin benzylation products. On the basis of these studies a novel palladium-catalyzed benzylation of olefins was developed without using organic halides as the starting materials. The method has another advantage of requiring no base as in the conventional Mizoroki-Heck process using organic halides. The catalytic cycle is proposed to be constituted of elementary processes of (a) oxidative addition of a benzyl carboxylate with C-O bond cleavage to a Pd(0) complex to give a benzylpalladium carboxylate, (b) olefin insertion into the benzylpalladium bond to give an alkylpalladium complex, and (c) β-H abstraction to liberate the benzylated olefin.
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