DUNCAN Bannatyne's former wife is setting up her own gym less than two miles from the headquarters of the Dragons' Den star's fitness empire.

Joanne McCue, whose divorce was finalised at the end of January, is understood to have agreed a deal with Darlington Mowden Park Rugby Club, which took over the former Darlington FC stadium earlier this year, to lease space for a fitness centre.

Mr Bannatyne operates more than 60 clubs across the country under the Bannatyne Health Club banner and has more than 180,000 members, according to its website.

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It is a business that, among other ventures, has seen him amass a fortune which the Sunday Times estimated last year to be worth £85m.

That was considerably less than the figure just a year earlier, something Mr Bannatyne has blamed in part on his acrimonious divorce from Ms McCue, 47.

Last month he took to the social networking site, Twitter, to launch a broadside at his ex-wife after their separation was finalised.

Mr Bannatyne wrote, among other things: "Just received my Decree Absolute by email, isn't that nice."

He also suggested the cost of his divorce had forced him to make job losses within his company.

Ms McCue married the 64-year-old in 2006. It was his second marriage and they have two children.

Last night she remained tight-lipped about the venture, which will be in Neasham Road - walking distance from Mr Bannatyne's premises in Haughton Road.

The Northern Echo understands that she plans to launch the gym next month and that it will be aimed at a broad section of the market, with an emphasis on fitness classes.

The gym will form part of Mowden's ambitious efforts to revitalise the 25,000-seat Northern Echo Arena, which was mothballed for almost a year after the football club departed following a fans' takeover.

Darlington Boxing and Martial Arts Academy is also moving to the stadium, and plans to host the Arena's first boxing match this month.

There are also plans to convert a 17-acre plot of land near the stadium into training pitches for the club's junior teams.

Ms McCue is reported to have booked a corporate box, using the name Joanne Bannatyne, for Mowden's first match at the Arena last weekend, which saw the home side beat Bromsgrove by 62 points to seven.

The gym, meanwhile, will be the latest addition to Darlington's booming health club industry.

A month-long refurbishment of the town's council-run Dolphin Centre gym got underway this week.

Mr Bannatyne declined to comment when approached.