The ability of an atom or molecular fragment to bind multiple carbon monoxide (CO) molecules to form multicarbonyl adducts is a fundamental trait of transition metals. Transition-metal carbonyl complexes are vital to industry, appear naturally in the active sites of a number of enzymes (such as hydrogenases), are promising therapeutic agents1, and have even been observed in interstellar dust clouds2. Despite the wealth of established transition-metal multicarbonyl complexes3, no elements outside groups 4 to 12 of the periodic table have yet been shown to react directly with two or more CO units to form stable multicarbonyl adducts. Here we present the synthesis of a borylene dicarbonyl complex, the first multicarbonyl complex of a main-group element prepared using CO. The compound is additionally stable towards ambient air and moisture. The synthetic strategy used—liberation of a borylene ligand from a transition metal using donor ligands—is broadly applicable, leading to a number of unprecedented monovalent boron species with different Lewis basic groups. The similarity of these compounds to conventional transition-metal carbonyl complexes is demonstrated by photolytic liberation of CO and subsequent intramolecular carbon–carbon bond activation.