May 21, 2004 08:00 AM

Sean John, the fashion label belonging to hip-hop entrepreneur Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, is expanding into the fragrance business thanks to an alliance with Estee Lauder, The New York Times reports.

The two companies are expected to announce their venture Friday and launch their scent in time for New York’s fashion shows in fall 2005.

Lauder outbid Coty for the right to manufacture Sean John because it missed out on Jennifer Lopez’s successful fragrance, Glow (which is made by Coty). Glow reportedly had sales of $40 million in its first year on retail shelves.

Lauder also outbid its traditional archrival Elizabeth Arden, which apparently also sought to sweeten the air with Combs.

Men’s fragrances already in Estee Lauder’s bathroom cabinet include Tommy Hilfiger, though that license will be expiring soon, which possibly paved the way for Lauder to take on a competing scent.

In other news of Combs, 33, his current appearance in the Broadway revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 drama A Raisin in the Sun has made the production a smash hit, despite the poor reviews he received.

The production, in particular his costars Phylicia Rashad and Audra McDonald (who are nominated for Tonys), were praised by critics. More importantly, ticket buyers are turning out en masse, says The Times.

Last week, “Raisin” grossed an incredible $570,020 (plays are usually lucky to make $200,000 a week), says the paper. As such, it out-grossed such established hits as The Phantom of the Opera, Beauty and the Beast and Chicago and is well on its way to make back its $2.4 million investment.

The limited, 15-week run is scheduled to end on July 11.

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