President-elect Barack Obama may be Time Magazine's Man of the Year, but a CNBC panel of experts thinks Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is tops when it comes to the business world.
After a year of being both praised and criticized for his handling of the financial crisis, Bernanke ultimately will be viewed as someone willing to do whatever it took to rescue the economy, the panel said.
Bernanke cemented his standing among the world's most prominent people with the Fed's move Tuesday to essentially establish a zero percent interest rate target, the panel said.
"I think all of those people who have made fun of Ben by calling him 'Helicopter Ben' owe him a big, big apology," said Paul McCulley, managing director at Pimco, the world's largest bond fund.
McCulley called Tuesday's move "a glorious day in the history of central banking" in which the Fed "went all in, in poker terms, in the fight against deflation and depression."
In the view of BlackRock vice chairman Bob Doll, Bernanke showed astounding composure in the face of a financial crisis the likes of which the nation has never seen.
"The guy's been on the hotseat nonstop," Doll said. "I can't think of a whole lot better people sitting in that chair."
Video: Watch discussion of Bernanke
And Abby Joseph Cohen, chief US investment strategist at Goldman Sachs, said Bernanke did "a fabulous job" this year, while she also said Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson deserves mention as someone "who has shown tremendous energy and creativity" in addressing the crisis.
She also said Obama's incoming Treasury Secretary Larry Summers also deserves mention for his input into policy decisions.
The only dissenting voice on the Bernanke selection came from Jack Bogle, founder of the Vanguard Group, who nominated John Maynard Keynes, the godfather of supply-side economics whose views came back into vogue this year as the belief in the free-market system to heal itself waned.
"We had Keynsian (economics) employed to the nano power," Bogle said. "He should take a big bow and be business person of the year."
Bogle also nominated index managers, saying they outperformed most equity fund managers this year.
"It's been a great year for staying the course and not doing a lot of trading," Bogle said.