Tris-chelate 5-hydroxymethyl-2,2 '-bipyridine complexes of ruthenium (II) and the structurally related benzo- and naphthoesters have been isolated. The mer-isomer of the alcohol functionalised complex has been isolated by selective precipitation from methylene chloride and was subsequently functionalised to the benzoester with retention of the geometrical isomerism. The fac- and merisomeric forms of the ester complexes were separated using preparative plate silica chromatography and characterised by H-1 NMR spectroscopy. X-ray structural analysis of the fac-isomer of both the ester complexes confirmed the product assignment. The photophysical properties of the three isomers were investigated, indicating very similar absorption spectra to [Ru(biPY)(3)](2+). The emission wavelength was comparable in each case, with the aromatic ester complexes giving a much longer lifetime and higher quantum yields. (c) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.