UPDATE: Insiders are denying the rumor that Bob Berney is going to work with Harvey and Bob Weinstein. I’m told there haven’t been any talks — yet.  Meanwhile, I’ve learned that Berney has the ability to take key staffers with him wherever he’s going.

EXCLUSIVE 5:30 PM: In a pre-Cannes bombshell, bob berney bill pohladBob Berney resigned from the top post of indie distribution company Apparition. I hear its owner, River Road’s Bill Pohlad, was blindsided by the move, especially since Berney and his staff were about to travel to the Cannes Film Festival and look for pictures to acquire. Pohlad has abruptly canceled that departure, especially since there wasn’t really anybody else empowered to negotiate Cannes deals. So now Apparition won’t be a presence at the international fest when it starts on Wednesday. One thing for sure: Berney could not have exited at a worse time for Apparition, and maybe that was the point.

Though Pohlad has been through a number of executives since he started his film company, there hadn’t been talk of discord between Berney and himself. Berney spent the better part of a year raising money after his Picturehouse was shuttered by Warner Bros. Though he hoped to establish a new company with several filmmakers, Berney wound up aligning with Pohlad as the sole financier when the venture was announced last August. Pohlad and Berney originally said their goal was to acquire and release 8 pictures per year, and Apparition got underway with the Jane Campion-directed Bright Star last fall.

But it had been slow going, with Apparition distributing The Runaways and The Square, and at year’s end set to distribute the Terrence Malick-directed Tree of Life starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, which is apparently still the plan. Pohlad did not give Apparition the Doug Liman-directed drama Fair Game, which stars Naomi Watts and Sean Penn in the real-life Valerie Plame political drama, and which premieres in competition at Cannes. That film will be distributed domestically by Summit. Was Berney bitter about not getting to distribute the hot-button film? I haven’t been able to reach him yet to find out.

Deadline’s post became the talk of the Delta Airlines terminal tonight, where a phalanx of film executives are waiting to board a flight to Nice for the Cannes Film Festival. (Hey guys, if you haven’t taken off, we’re still gathering details and want your input.)

PREVIOUS: Here’s the email that just went out to staff from Apparition’s owner Bill Pohlad about Bob Berney, the head of the company:

To our Apparition colleagues and staff:

As some of you may know, Bob Berney has submitted his resignation to me.  I suspect that this news comes as a surprise to many of you.  It certainly did to me.  So I can’t claim that we have a plan in place yet in the wake of this announcement.  I can, however, assure you that we will be working in the days ahead to explore our options regarding his replacement.  In the meantime, Valerie Bruce, our Senior Vice President of Business Affairs, will serve as interim COO.

I apologize for whatever confusion and uncertainty this news may cause, but know that we are proud and grateful for all the work that you have put into the company and appreciate your continued support.

Bill Pohlad