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Online sports portal Sportal has been sold for just £1 to online bookie UKbetting.com. The troubled dotcom (and dot co.uk) admitted last week that it had hit a "challenging time".

Most of the remaining 130 staff - down from 340 in its heyday - are expected to lose their jobs.

Sportal put itself up for sale in September, reporting that "around a dozen" companies had been in touch over buying its European Web site operations, WAP serivce and technology platform - but not its brand name or URLs.

Just over a month later though and UKBetting - also owners of Totalbet.com and Sportinglife.com - pays £190,000 for the technology and an arbitrary £1 for the brand names and URLs.

Totalbet.com is not buying the Sportal assets; so the company formerly known as Sportal can continue to operate as a content provider for other Web sites. It is unlikely to do so for the company which now owns Sportal.

Sportal was once valued at $170 million, spent millions on promoting itself and struck deals with Juventus and Bayern Munich.

However, this year, 45 staff were cut in two steps. In August it got £8m in extra funding to keep it afloat and claimed that would see it through to "early 2002".

The sale of the brand name is also an interesting reversal of fortune when not so long ago sports portals were buying bookmakers in order to have some kind of income.

An indication of Sportal's new owners can be seen on the Web site - UKBetting has very quickly coded in a new section in its main menu - a white on red banner saying "Betting" with the text "bet with UKbetting.com on all the latest sporting events". All other banners are black on orange.

Fare ye well Sportal. ®

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Sportal hit by 'challenging time'
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