Black & Decker Manufacturing Co. said yesterday it has reached an agreement in principle to sell its money-losing McCulloch chain saw operation to a group of business people that includes the division's current president.

The chain-saw operation, purchased in 1973, suffered as the national interest in do-it-yourself wood stove heating began to wane. It had become in the past 2 1/2 years "a significant drain on Black & Decker's managerial and financial resources," B&D Chairman Francis P. Lucier said last October when the company put McCulloch on the block.

McCulloch cost Black & Decker, whose headquarters is in Towson, Md., a $25 million after-tax loss last year. McCulloch, which makes gasoline chain saws, has factories in Arizona and Italy.

Black & Decker said the sale is subject to negotiation of a final contract and other, unnamed, conditions. No price was revealed, but company officials said the sale is not expected to place further charges on Black & Decker's earnings.

Laurence J. Farley, president and chief operating officer of Black & Decker, said he expects that sale will be concluded without any interruption of services to McCulloch customers.

The purchasers, who include McCulloch's current president, Donald V. Marchese, said they will continue the business under the company name.

In addition to Marchese, several other members of the McCulloch management team have joined outside investors to form the new corporation. These outside investors include three members of Meridian Ventures, a Baltimore venture capital firm that has specialized in health care; Michael Batza, Earl L. Linehan and Roger C. Lipitz; Rolf Graage and William A. Kroh, officers in a Baltimore freight forwarding and importing business; Walter Probst of Palm Springs, Calif., a director of United Technology Corp. and former principal stockholder and chief executive of Essex International, now a United Technology subsidiary; and Gary Probst of Fort Wayne, Ind.