FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) _ The president and chief operating officer at the nation's largest nursing home company has resigned, effective immediately, Beverly Enterprises Inc. announced Tuesday.

Boyd W. Hendrickson also resigned from the company's board of directors.

This month, Beverly reported a 63 percent drop in earnings for the third quarter, blaming lower Medicare reimbursements and rising labor costs. In August, the company announced it would pay $175 million to the federal government in a tentative settlement of a Medicare billing investigation.

Hendrickson's resignation had ``nothing to do with the government investigation of the Medicare situation. None of the agreements we had with the government involved any individual culpability,'' Beverly spokesman Jim Griffith said Tuesday evening.

``There was no singular event that led to this and it would not either be true or fair to make any connection between this and the government settlement. The timing was truly coincidental,'' Griffith said.

Beverly expects the settlement with the government to become final by the end of the year, he said.

David R. Banks, chairman and chief executive officer, will assume Hendrickson's duties until a successor is named, the company said.

No reason was given for Hendrickson's resignation in a Beverly news release.

Hendrickson, who has worked for Beverly since 1988, had been a Beverly board member and executive since November 1995.

Fort Smith-based Beverly operates 561 skilled nursing facilities, as well as 36 assisted living centers, 198 outpatient clinics and 61 home health and hospice agencies.