Thomas Handley is stepping down as Ecolab's president and chief operating officer on April 1 and will work on the company's effort to spin off its oil-drilling chemicals business until he retires later this year.

Handley, who was named the company's president and chief operating officer in 2012, will be succeeded by Ecolab's global industrial leader Christophe Beck, the company said late Monday.

Beck joined Ecolab in 2007 and was instrumental to integrating Ecolab's then newly acquired Nalco division into the company.

The "up-stream" energy services unit being spun off includes a portion of the business formed when Ecolab bought Nalco in 2011 and Champion Technologies in 2013.

In making the leadership changes, Douglas Baker — CEO of the St. Paul-based cleaning and sanitizing chemicals giant — applauded Handley's work.

"Tom has been a simply outstanding leader in advancing Ecolab's strategy, execution, talent and culture," Baker said in a statement. "His contributions have been an important part of our success and will have lasting impact. We are pleased that Tom will continue to lead our work on such a strategically important initiative for our company."

Handley spent 22 years at Procter & Gamble before joining Ecolab in 2003. He served as head of Ecolab's strategic planning, president of the Industrial and Services North America division and head of the global food and beverage business before taking the president and COO role in 2012.

Spokesman Mike Monahan said Tuesday that Handley, 64, was a key strategist for the company.

His successor, Beck, joined Ecolab in 2007 after 16 years at Nestlé. Beck was in charge of Ecolab's North American Foodservice business before being selected as executive vice president of the institutional sector. He was later named president of Ecolab international regions.

In a statement, Baker praised Beck's "strong" leadership.

"He has done a terrific job in each role bringing great energy, innovative thinking and excellent execution capabilities to every opportunity," Baker said. "He has driven product development and sales and service effectiveness, strengthened teams and built businesses for long-term success.

"These experiences have prepared him well for this position. We are confident he will lead the overall business with the same passion, commitment and results focus as he has in each of his prior responsibilities."

Ecolab's stock closed Tuesday at $175.05, down 10 cents.

Correction: An earlier version of this story indicated that retiring Ecolab executive Thomas Handley had been in line to become chief executive. Ecolab officials said Tuesday that Handley, 64, was a key strategist, but that it was never intended that he would succeed long-time CEO Douglas Baker. His retirement is according to plan, said spokesman Mike Monahan.