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Julie and Steve Pankhurst may now be millionaires but they are unlikely to adopt the jet set lifestyle.

The Pankhursts launched Friends Reunited from a spare bedroom in their semi-detached in Barnet, north London. “They love Barnet and are staying put,” says the company.

Mrs Pankhurst, 38, came up with the idea for the business when she was pregnant and wanted to find how many of her old school friends were in a similar condition.

With her software engineer husband and Jason Porter, his business partner, Friends Reunited was launched in 2000.

Within a year, the website was handling 5m hits a day.

In 2003, the founders handed over day-to-day management to a team led by Mike Murphy, a former Financial Times executive.

As well as the original service, the company now offers Genes Reunited – a site that allows people to trace their family tree – an internet dating service and a jobs site.

In 2000, 90 per cent of the group’s revenues came from the Friends Reunited site. That figure is now about 46 per cent.

The £120m proceeds of the ITV deal will be paid from cash, ITV shares and loan notes. About £30m apiece will go to the Pankhursts and to Mr Porter.

Some 52 Friends Reunited managers and employees will also share £48m between them.

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