Networking gear firm Tekelec (Nasdaq: TKLC) says its top executive Frank Plastina stepped down Tuesday but will serve as a consultant for the next year.

He also gave up his seat on the Tekelec board.

Board member Krish Prabhu takes over as interim CEO.

The news also coincided with a cut in revenue and profit forecasts for 2010 due to a project delay in India. (Read details here.)

Tekelec shares opened down 31 cents Wednesday but quickly rebounded abov $12 before 10 a.m. Tekelec announced the change before the markets opened Wednesday.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Tekelec said Plastina will receive a “cash severance compensation” package of more than $2.5 million.

Plastina also will receive health coverage for himself and his family for two years.

The severance will be paid over two years.

“In his five years at Tekelec, Frank led the successful transformation of the company into a global leader and innovator in next generation network intelligence, highlighted by record revenues and earnings during his tenure,” said Mark Floyd, chairman of the Tekelec board, in a statement. “Frank has positioned Tekelec for the future, both in terms of product evolution and revenue growth, and we wish him great success in his next endeavor.”

Tekelec said its board has already formed a succession committee to search for a new CEO.

No reason was cited by Tekelec for Plastina’s resignation.

“On January 4, 2011, Franco Plastina notified the Company of his resignation, effective as of that date, as the Company’s President and Chief Executive Officer and as a member of the Company’s Board of Directors (the “Board”),” Tekelec said in the filing.

“He also resigned as an employee of the Company and from any and all other positions he held with the Company and its subsidiaries. In connection with Mr. Plastina’s resignation and in accordance with the terms of the Company’s 2007 Officer Severance Plan, as amended (the “Severance Plan”), he is entitled to receive cash severance compensation in the total amount of $2,508,000, provided he enters into an employment separation agreement with the Company in the form attached to the Severance Plan. The severance compensation will be payable over a period of 24 months. Pursuant to the terms of the Severance Plan, the Company will also provide continuing health care coverage to Mr. Plastina and his beneficiaries for a period of 24 months following the termination of his employment.”

Plastina is one of the best known high-tech executives in the Research Triangle tech community and in the global telecommunications industry. He was a longtime executive at Nortel.

“I’m extremely proud of our accomplishments over the past five years,” Plastina said in a statement. “I remain an investor in Tekelec, and I believe in and look forward to seeing the next stage of Tekelec’s success.”

Plastina will help the company transition to a new CEO, Tekelec said.

“In connection with Mr. Plastina’s resignation, the Company and Mr. Plastina have also entered into a consulting agreement pursuant to which, through February 28, 2011, Mr. Plastina will perform services to facilitate the Company’s transition to an interim President and Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Plastina will perform the services for a daily fee on such day or days as may be agreed between the Company and Mr. Plastina,” the company noted.

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