A novel dinuclear nickel(II) complex, [Ni2L(NO 3)(H2O)3]NO3 (where L is a 'side-off' compartmental ligand obtained by [1 + 2] condensation of 1,3-diaminopropane and 2,6-diformyl-4-tert-butylphenol) has been synthesized and characterized by routine physicochemical techniques as well as by X-ray single crystal structure analysis. Structure determination reveals that the two nickel ions, separated by 3.0824(9) Å, occupy the N2O2 and O4 compartments of the Schiff base ligand. The immediate coordination environment of each nickel ion is octahedral and the species adopts an umbrella bowed conformation. The catalytic activity of the complex for the oxidation of 3,5-di-tert-butylcatechol to the corresponding o-quinone in methanol solvent has been studied by UV-vis spectroscopic technique. © 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.