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One argument for selling the Los Angeles Kings

It was a day of celebration in the City of Angels. The day was so big, and people were so excited, that the city's low-key mayor, Eric Garcetti, intentionally dropped an f-bomb before a crowd of thousands at Staples Center. This, from a guy better known for embracing yoga than cursing.

No one seemed to mind Monday.

Fans celebrate after the Los Angeles Kings beat the New York Rangers to win the Stanley Cup on June 13, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.
David McNew / Stringer | Getty Images Sport
Fans celebrate after the Los Angeles Kings beat the New York Rangers to win the Stanley Cup on June 13, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.

For months in Los Angeles, fans at Staples Center watched the Lakers implode. Then, Clippers owner Donald Sterling embarrassed himself and the city, though the team soldiered on. All that time, the quiet, methodical, relentless Kings shot puck after puck, goal after goal. And they saved the best for last. The Kings put on a show during the Stanley Cup that proved that zombies really exist. They play hockey. You think they're dead, but they're not.

Nielsen ratings show that Friday night's NHL final game, which went into double overtime, was seen by 6 million viewers, the "most watched Stanley Cup final game 5 in six years." In L.A., the game had a 12.4 rating, 41 percent higher than the same game two years ago, though in 2012 it took the Kings six games to clinch the cup.

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All that said, isn't it time to sell the team? After all, Disney did just that after the long-suffering Angels finally won the World Series in 2002.

Dan Beckerman, CEO of sports entertainment firm AEG, the corporate owner of the Kings, has said that selling is not an option. "This team has a special place in all of our hearts, it's really the core of our company," he told CNBC earlier this month. "While it really has value for the Staples Center and LA Live (both of which AEG owns), the value is immeasurable when you think of what it means to our company."

If one is thinking with the mind rather than the heart, however, selling the Kings now could be incredibly lucrative to AEG, especially if the company has any real ambitions to lure an NFL team to Los Angeles. Every other sports team in LA is selling for at least $2 billion these days. That's a thousand times more than the $2 million Jack Kent Cooke paid the NHL to bring an expansion team to Los Angeles in the '60s.

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Why sell?

  • The team has never been more valuable.
  • There are plenty of suitors who struck out buying the Dodgers and Clippers.
  • Phil Anschutz, who owns AEG and the Kings, lives in Colorado and is not an "LA guy" (but, then, neither is would-be Clippers owner Steve Ballmer).
  • There's no new lucrative TV deal to negotiate on the horizon, since the Kings and Fox Sports signed a deal two years ago estimated to be worth $250 million through 2024.

But then, what's the rush? The team continues to sell more season tickets every year and has sold out 119 games in a row, according to Forbes.

"Our fans in Los Angeles have really taken to the team, and demand for tickets is crazy," said Aaron LeValley, AEG Sports' senior director of digital strategy and analytics.

AEG Global Partners, which sells corporate tie-ins, told CNBC it had "record-breaking sponsorship sales" during the Stanley Cup, which were 23 percent higher than two years ago.

As for potential buyers, where to start? Maybe with the billionaires who've expressed interest in other LA sports teams — Larry Ellison, Patrick Soon-Shiong, David Geffen, maybe even the same group of investors who paid $2.15 billion for the Los Angeles Dodgers. By the way, Hollywood mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer is a huge hockey fan. Just sayin'...

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Here's one scenario that will not unfold: Shelly Sterling selling the Clippers and using the proceeds to finance a purchase of the Kings. This way she could still sit in the front row at Staples. It'll never happen. ...

But it would be fun to see her try.

—By CNBC's Jane Wells.

  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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