The partial oxidation of 4-tert-butyltoluene to 4-tert-butylbenzaldehyde by hydrogen peroxide in glacial acetic acid, catalyzed by bromide ions in combination with cobalt(II) acetate or cerium(III) acetate, has been studied in detail. Based on the observed differences in reaction rates and product distributions for the different catalysts, a reaction mechanism involving two independent pathways is proposed. After the initial formation of a benzylic radical species, either oxidation of this intermediate by the metal catalyst or reaction with bromine generated in situ occurs, depending on which catalyst is used. The first pathway leads to the exclusive formation of 4-tert-butylbenzaldehyde, whereas reaction of the radical intermediate with bromine leads to formation of the observed side products 4-tert-butylbenzyl bromide and its hydrolysis and solvolysis products 4-tert-butylbenzyl alcohol and 4-tert-butylbenzyl acetate, respectively. The cobalt(II) catalysts Co(OAc)(2) and Co(acac)(2) are able to quickly oxidize the radical intermediate, thereby largely preventing the bromination reaction (i.e., side-product formation) from occurring, and yield the aldehyde product with 75-80 % selectivity. In contrast, the cerium catalyst studied here exhibits an aldehyde selectivity of around 50 % due to the competing bromination reaction. Addition of extra hydrogen peroxide leads to an increased product yield of 72 % (cerium(III) acetate) or 58 % (cobalt(II) acetate). Product inhibition and the presence of increasing amounts of water in the reaction mixture do not play a role in the observed low incremental yields.